Two questions: Who is Joss Stone, and who does she think she is? The first is easier to answer. A 16-year-old ingenue from Devon, England, Stone is the latest rootsy blond songbird with a debut CD. And if The Soul Sessions is any indication, she thinks she is the voice of American soul music for a new generation. The scary thing is, she may be right.
The album, which began as a side project to Stone's yet-unreleased mainstream debut, is a delicious platter of long-lost R&B; cuts, fusing old-school soul sensibilities with contemporary production techniques. The backing musicians are consistently brilliant, but each track is tailored for Stone's effortless whiskey-and-molasses vocals. She's at her most melodic with "The Choking Kind" and "Super Duper Love (Are You Diggin' on Me) Pt. 1." The album also includes a totally bizarre and rather ingenious reinvention of the White Stripes hit "Fell in Love With a Boy," with some help from the Roots.
Just as a lanky Brit named Eric Clapton reintroduced American blues to middle-class youth in the '60s, Joss Stone is poised to do the same for soul music. Even if there's no way any teen-ager can understand the depth of emotion she's conveying, she performs with such natural flair that you want to believe her anyway.
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Joss Stone: The Soul Sessions (S-Curve Records) *** 1/2