By Spike Brendle
2009 marked the year of my very first Coachella, also my first time hearing Joss Stone. Saturday afternoon, I stumbled through the festival gates, and found myself at the main stage, right as Miss Stone walked out in her flowing white summer dress, flower in her hair, and giant smile on her face. As soon as she started singing, I was hooked. There are a lot of soul artists around but few have the ability to rock you inside out with the feeling, yet not be enough to come off as unbearable or obnoxious. When she finished, I walked away with the same smile on my face that she had on her way in.
Now, fast forward six years later, Stone brings us Water for Your Soul. This album was proclaimed by Stone herself to be a departure from what she has done in the past, hinting it would be “more eclectic.” Co-Produced with Damian Marley, the album brings us a whole new sound to Stone’s brand of soul. Aside from reggae, she takes us through an array of hip-hop, world, Latin and even a bit of Indian inspiration.
The first track, “Love Me” wastes no time exposing us to the eclectic changes she’s been working on. Right away, you will definitely not recognize this sound compared to previous releases. The surprising (and maybe most satisfying) part is how Stone seamlessly bridges the gap between reggae and soul, sounding so comfortable with the music. “Love Me” is the perfect addition to your summer poolside playlist (as is most the rest of the album.)
Her first single off the album “Stuck on You” was released in May of this year. This track is a little slower, almost calling on what Stone has done in the past but still a little too edgy to consider the same style. The sarod (a traditional Indian stringed instrument) gives the track an exotic, worldly feel, carried by continuous tribal drums. Her vocal delivery in the chorus is typical of Stone’s work in the past, but with all these added elements she really has created a whole new feeling to her sound.
Half way into the album, Marley joins in on vocals for the track “Wake Up.” As solid of a song as it sounds, it's the lyrical content that should be taken in most. What a great song for a world that needs to grasp messages like this. The chorus asks “Wake up // What is this nonsense? // Why can’t we be conscious // what we’re feeding our people?” I take this as Stone questioning everyone here, everyone on earth, reading and feeding into negative events blown out of proportion, whether it’s a news outlet or friends on social media. Us humans are all the same, and we need to spend our time enjoying life, not feeding into what (whoever) wants us to think.
The last song on the album, “The Answer” picks the energy back up with an upbeat Latin, maybe samba intro and an (Irish?) fiddle. Stone jumps right in with vocals that keep up with the quick snare hits over the beat. Again, the chorus is somewhat similar to her previous work, but the feeling given by this album is so rich and eclectic, it really takes it to a whole new level. This track has my favorite lyric “If we’d just connect the heart and head // We’d be just fine // No judgement call of any kind.” Words of wisdom coming from a young artist who has matured beautifully, taking all the right steps in the best direction.
This album delivers on all points. Whether it’s the style, additional instruments, or the production, the album sounds and feels a lot more rich and full than her previous releases, adding another dimension to what already was exciting and easy to listen to. Everyone will be able to appreciate this album, from front to back. (Yes even the part where she tells us how to grow Sensimillia) Can we go ahead and add her to our 2016 Coachella hopefuls list? Yes, yes we can.