“Those songs are much better than the songs I can write, shit” Joss Stone recently proclaimed, demonstrating she is an artist full of contradictions. Now releasing music on her own label, after a long and arduous battle with EMI for creative freedom, you have to question why she’d record another covers album after suffering such turmoil for her art. A crisis of confidence perhaps, when her self penned work did not shift as many units as expected. Pseudo-psychology aside, Joss is back doing what she does best – belting out soul classics in her own raspy way.
The retro rejigs selected here are first and foremost a vehicle for Stone’s soaring vocals, which are the driving force of the album. ‘While You’re Out Looking for Sugar’ is, as the title suggests, a slice of sweet ’60s soul. An obvious single, Joss adds some contemporary swagger to the original.
Meanwhile, ‘Sideways Shuffle’ is an effortless slow burner filled with wah-wah guitars, keyboards, and congas and drips with an understated confidence. The same cannot be said for ‘The Love We Had (Stays on my Mind)’ and ‘Nothing Takes The Place of You’. In full diva form, Stone performs the kind of vocal gymnastics perfected by soul veterans and while her voice cannot be faulted, the concept that force and feeling are not the same thing comes to mind. Luckily there are gentler moments to counterpoint the wonderful warbling. The mellow, breezy sound of ‘Pillow Talk’ and it’s acoustic arrangement and whispering vocal on ‘Then You Tell Me Goodbye’ display the softer side to Stone’s range.
The Soul Sessions Volume 2 is nothing less then what we have come to expect from Joss Stone. Her vocal talent cannot be disputed and the songs are filled with the requisite soul and funk we have become accustomed to. Whether this is just high class karaoke or something more substantial is still up for debate. Now that she has the artistic freedom she once craved, hopefully she’ll be brave enough to put pen to paper next time.