Joss, Joss, Joss. What are we going to do with you? The queen of the growling throat is back with a sequel to her 2003 debut, The Soul Sessions, and it’s dropping into a post-Adele world. The two powerhouses are not truly competitors — Adele caters to the Top 40, Joss less so — but both are soul-styled Brits with AK-47s where their larynges should be. Since Stone’s 2009 Colour Me Free, the charts have been in a committed relationship with Adele’s “Rolling In The Deep” and “Someone Like You.” Heck, she’s not even the most famous Joss in the world anymore. But you know what Stone has that sets her apart?
Grit, and the ghost of Janis Joplin coming out of her mouth.
For that reason, The Soul Sessions, Vol. 2 is canny. Safe, but canny. This is no place for artistic statements; the only goal here is to show that Stone can sing better than you. The main attraction on this album full of covers is a fevered rendition of Broken Bells’ “The High Road.” No, there is nothing new about twisting an alternative gem into an R&B yelper. But this is the second volume of a cover album, after all. New isn’t the point. It’s a rollicking good time full of gospel flavor, elevated by some inspired squealing guitars in the opening. If anything, it’s worth a listen for the sheer “Oh hey! I love that song and this sounds like it but at the same time is different!” novelty of it all.
The sexy “Teardrops” shows Stone can do nuance just as well as she can do bombast, and “Pillow Talk” offers an opportunity to hear her even more restrained side. “I Got The…” and “First Taste of Hurt,” on the other hand, are more typically funk-minded.
If one were to put together a Joss Stone time capsule (and who am I to question anybody’s hobbies), “While You’re Out Looking For Sugar” would be an excellent example of her schtick. A Honey Cone cover, it’s got belting, wailing and a serving of empowerment. And, of course, it’s got a beat and you can dance to it.
At times, The Soul Sessions, Vol. 2 bleeds together a little too easily, becoming all too reminiscent of some American Idol compilation album. But when Joss shines, she shines, and this album is a solid showcase for a woman who was born to sing.