Joss Stone: The Soul Sessions (S-Curve)
You wouldn't think that such soulful sounds could come out of a16-year-old from the UK, but newcomer Joss Stone smashes allstereotypes with her freshman effort, The Soul Sessions. Thetalented teen breathes pure emotion into a collection of 10 greatsongs, ranging from the Isley Brothers' “For the Love ofYou” and Aretha Franklin's “All the King's Horses” tothe absolutely delicious (but obscure) “Dirty Man” by LauraLee. The production of The Soul Sessions is a collaborationbetween S-Curve founder Steve Greenburg, '60s/'70ssongstress/producer/writer Betty Wright and engineer/producer MikeMangini. The tracks are tight and dry, and showcase both Stone and herbackup musicians, many of whom shaped some of the soul hits of the '70sthemselves: keyboardist Benny Lattimore, guitarist Willie “LittleBeaver” Hale, Timmy Thomas on organ and Cindy Blackman on drums.One notable cut that strays from the vintage soul scenario is“Fell in Love With a Boy,” a cover of a White Stripes tune(“Fell in Love With a Girl”) featuring The Roots.
Producers: Steve Greenburg, Betty Wright and Mike Mangini. Studio:The Hit Factory/Criteria, Miami. Engineer: Steve Greenwell. Mastering:Chris Gehringer/Sterling Sound.
— Kevin Becka
Al Green: I Can't Stop (Blue Note)
I Can't Stop
is the first secular album Al Green has made with legendary producerWillie Mitchell since the mid-'70s. It's a clear and totally successfulattempt to recapture the sound of Green's most beloved recordings.Green's voice might not be as effortlessly limber as it was when hefirst sang “Tired of Being Alone,” but he sounds just assexy, just as soulful, and his songwriting talent remains undiminished.(Green wrote all of the songs on the album; eight were co-written withMitchell.) To help re-create that Al Green magic, Green and Mitchellbrought in many of the musicians who appeared on Green's '70s hits:guitarist Mabon “Teenie” Hodges, bassist Leroy Hodges, theRoyal Horns (Scott Thompson, Jack Hale, Andrew Love, Lannie McMillanand Jim Spake), and backing singers Donna Rhodes, Charlie Chalmers andSandra Rhodes. Same grooves, same punchy horns, same heavenly voices.It's nothing new — just another Al Green masterpiece.
Producer: Willie Mitchell. Associate producers: Archie Mitchell,Lawrence Mitchell, Jason Hohenberg. Engineers: Archie Mitchell andWillie Mitchell. Studio: Royal Studios (Memphis). Mastering engineer:Bernie Grundman.
— Barbara Schultz
Sarah McLachlan: Afterglow (Arista)
The wait is finally over. Sarah McLachlan has returned to the popspotlight after she seemingly disappeared from the music worldaltogether in '99, following the last date of the final Lilith Fairtour. With Afterglow, it is evident that not much has changed inMcLachlan's artistic leanings during the past four years. The album isfirmly planted in her signature sound: the tuneful, dominating piano(on many tracks); the strong sense of self in her songwriting; thequiet, subtle power of her vocal style; and the spare use of effects.Teaming up once again with longtime producer Pierre Marchande (who hasworked with the songstress on the majority of her albums),Afterglow burns with a sweet simplicity (“World is onFire,” “Drifting,” “Answer”) that isreminiscent of her previous smash outing, Surfacing. WhileAfterglow doesn't break much new ground and might not attractmany new followers, it should comfortably please McLachlan fans.
Producer: Pierre Marchand. Engineers: Pierre Marchand, Chris Potter,Roman Klun, John Oliviera, Linda Strawberry, Yanick Dunais, BrianHogue, Pete Caigan. Mixing engineer: Chris Potter. Mastering: BobLudwig (Gateway Mastering). Studios: Marchand's and McLachlan's homestudios.
— Sarah Benzuly
Hot Club of Cowtown: Continental Stomp (HightoneRecords)
Hot Club of Cowtown have garnered critical acclaim and attracted acontinually swelling fan base from their festive live shows, which takeplace everywhere from large outdoor festivals, to smoky music clubs, tocity street corners. Donning hip '40s-style attire and playing vintageinstruments, the adaptable Austin, Texas-based trio plays a sizzlingDjango Reinhardt-Bob Wills hybrid, complete with spirited, virtuosicsolos and lively melodies capable of transporting listeners from asawdust dance floor to a high-falutin' jazz club within the space of afew measures. The trio's new live album, therefore, comes as a welcomeaddition to the Hot Club catalog, delivering 12 tracks recorded atAustin's famed Continental Club, along with two studio tracks: thejazzy Gaskill/McHugh classic “I Can't Believe You're in Love WithMe” and one eyebrow-raising hidden cut. Fiddler/vocalist ElanaFremerman, guitarist/vocalist Whit Smith and upright bassist Jake Erwinblaze through nostalgic pop and country numbers such as “PenniesFrom Heaven” and “My Window Faces the South,” as wellas Hot Club rearrangements of western swing and jazz standards.Standouts include a smoking “Diga Diga Do,” a feisty“Chinatown” and a dancehall-ready “Crazy 'Cause ILove You.” Producer Lloyd Maines tones down the crowd noise tomake room for the trio's engaging onstage banter and occasional yelpsand hollers. The disc certainly captures the band's onstage enthusiasm,something that hasn't fully translated yet on the group's studiorecordings.
Producer: Lloyd Maines. Engineers: Lloyd Maines, Adam Odor.Assistant engineers: John Silva, John Moore. Studio: Cedar CreekRecording. Mastering: Fred Remmert/Cedar Creek Recording.
— Heather Johnson