Hailing from Cullompton in Devon, soul singer Joss Stone enjoyed almost instant acclaim when, as at the age of 16, she released her debut album “The Soul Sessions”, a collection of cover songs, in 2003.
Follow-up “Mind, Body & Soul” in 2004 consisted mostly of material that Stone herself had been involved in the writing of.
The promotion for Stone’s third album “Introducing…” was said to have been disrupted as a result of some controversy over her appearance at the Brit Awards in 2007 where she spoke in an American accent and made comments that led the British press to react negatively toward her.
Further drama was to follow. Firstly there was a contract dispute with record label EMI around the release of album number four “Colour Me Free”. Positive drama came when Stone played the role of Anne Of Cleeves in “The Tudors”. Finally, in 2011 two Manchester men were arrested, being convicted in 2013 of plotting to kidnap, rob and murder Stone at her Devon home.
Since then Stone has released “LP1”, an excellent album recorded in collaboration with Dave Stewart (Eurthymics), a follow-up to her debut album, this time called “The Soul Sessions Vol. 2”, and she was part of a short-lived group named SuperHeavy which also included Dave Stewart, Mick Jagger (The Rolling Stones), Indian musician A.R. Rahman and reggae singer Damian Marley (son of the late Bob Marley) which released a self-titled album.
It was this last experience that set Stone on the path to her seventh studio album “Water For Your Soul”. Although Stone has been quoted as saying that “…there’s some early reggae elements that find their way in there, but in general it’s hip-hop” I would have to say that, for me, it’s more reggae based than anything else.
I think that Stone is a fantastic singer with superb range and expression (my wife would beg to differ however!). Nonetheless, on first listening I wasn’t particularly taken with this new record.
Aside from the reggae sound there are other influences on display too. Lead single “Stuck On You” has a slight Indian vibe for example, also to be found on the atmospheric “Sensimilla”.
This album is not as immediate as Stone’s previous work. I would say, having given the record repeated listens, this is an album particularly suited to summertime (so just as well it’s not being held back until December!) – but I personally find that’s often the way with reggae.
This is unlikely to ever be my favourite Stone album, but it is certainly a grower and I do now like it very much. She sings beautifully as ever, and the instrumentation is actually really good. Favourite tracks at this point are opener “Love Me”, “The Answer”, “This Ain’t Love”, “Harry’s Symphony”, “Clean Water” and the aforementioned “Sensimilla”.
1. Love Me / 2. This Ain’t Love / 3. Stuck On You / 4. Star / 5. Let Me Breathe / 6. Cut The Line / 7. Wake Up / 8. Way Oh / 9. Underworld / 10. Molly Town / 11. Sensmilla / 12. Harry’s Symphony / 13. Clean Water / 14. The Answer