As a child of the ’60s and a singer/songwriter of mostly folk music, reviewing Joss Stone‘s latest offering, Water For Your Soul, took me way outside my wheelhouse. Not that I have been unaware of soul, of which this album has plenty, but soul (and it’s many permutations) has evolved markedly since I first heard it back in the days of Ray Charles, Otis Redding, Aretha Franklin, James Brown, Smoky Robinson, and Marvin Gaye, to name just a few of the early masters.
Fast-forward to 2015 and voila, Joss Stone is blending soul, R & B, hip-hop, and the staccato stylings of reggae in this her sixth collection. The production is first-rate, with tight instrumentation (love the bass throughout!), empathetic background harmonies, and Stone’s quintessentially soulful vocalizations that only leave me wishing her voice had been placed more up front in the final mix. The calypso nylon-string guitar lead on “Let Me Breathe” is a refreshing counterpoint, and I can almost swear I hear a hint of sitar (though it’s not mentioned in the credits) on “Stuck On You.” Many of these songs are written in a minor key (which always gets my attention), but to my ear the musical structure does not vary to any substantial degree from track to track. Of course this is the conundrum of songwriters from all musical genres – keeping the songs within the parameters of any given musical signature while at the same time infusing each tune with enough variety to generate and maintain the listener’s interest. In this case, Stone establishes and faithfully maintains a sound that her fans, both old and new, will no doubt identify with this album for a long time to come.
Lyrically, the theme of this disc is universally introspective and relationship-driven, with the exception of “Wake Up.” This one song, at least to me, echoes the message of a broader consciousness reminiscent of the socio/political angst expressed in Marvin Gaye’s classic “What’s Going On,” and is my personal favorite from Water For Your Soul.
Altogether, this record delivers smooth soulful sounds and is perfect for a dance party or a more intimate tango (or tangle!) just for two.