The latest installment from Colette on Soul from the British Isles. Enjoy.
Most people know how much I love, adore and worship vintage soul music and musicians. But like MM, I’m also constantly trolling for those new young artists with a truly soulful sound (blue eyed or black) — and the artistic backbone to keep it from being watered down by a recording industry that wants to mulch every bit of soul grit out, and ground it into a smooth, sludgy club-vibe Spam version of R & B that’s so hot these days, and to me feels like slightly funkified elevator music.Turns out there are a lot of kids out there carrying the torch under the radar (to mix metaphors), trying to refresh the R & B/soul idiom and keep on keepin’ it real with some integrity. And there’s a new movement afoot, at least in Britain: Retro-soul! Amy Winehouse‘s huge, surprise success is propelling this, as is Joss Stone‘s and (though she’s got a different soul bag) my beloved Corinne Bailey Rae.I’m intrigued by a few of these other old soul contenders, and wonder what you think: Do they have a groove? Do they have a future? Would you want to see them live, or hear a whole album?Let’s start with the most hyped of this bunch: a pretty 24-year old Welsh bird called Duffy, marketed as the healthier, cleaner version of the sadly ravaged Amy Winehouse. She’s gaining chart traction with original tunes, and so far so good. I like this one best:— “Mercy” — DuffyHere’s another of her originals — a scratchy, beseeching ballad:— “Syrup and Honey” — DuffyPalol Nutini is even younger — a 21 year old Scottish kid with an Italian name (his parents are from Tuscany), and a slurry/blurry, broken and raw kind of voice, that oozes eros and hurt, and is quite distinctive. A bit of a hipster teen idol, and a little scary (rumors of substance abuse already). But there’s something compelling about his sound. This is a sort of knock off of “Let’s get it on” by Marvin Gaye,” but I do love Paolo’s lyric “Let’s get restless baby….”— “Loving You,” Paolo NutiniHe does a lot of very interesting, offbeat covers of old tunes — would you believe “Bang Bang”? One I especially like is this heartfelt rendition of a tune by the late great Fred Neil, who also wrote “Everybody’s Talkin’.”— “Dolphins” sung by Paolo NutiniI also have to fess up to a fondness for his “Rehab” cover — just hope it doesn’t apply to him as much as to Ms. Winehouse…..— “Rehab” sung by Paolo NutiniThe Doors) is another very young stripling of a Brit, with a different kind of ragged voice and a more — dare I say — wholesome(?) brand of sensitivity. It’s amazing, isn’t it — I mean, where do they get these kids in England? Their tradition of blue-eyed soul is still, obviously, very strong. And the record companies get behind it. This was a huge British and European hit, but hasn’t caught on as big in the US: (no relation to Jim, or— “ ” — James MorrisonAnd one of his originals:— “Call the Police” — James MorrisonThen there’s Jamie Lidell. I was extremely disappointed when I saw Jamie live last year, and he spent the set tinkering with several synthesizers and induced brain freeze in a long, boring, electronic jam — with himself. He’s apparently quite the trickster, loves changing up his look and sound. But I’m happy to learn that his fetching new “Jim” gets him doing what he does best: singing those old-school jumps. Very gifted guy, in my book:— “A Little Bit of Feel Good” — Jamie Lidell— “Multiply” — James MorrisonFinally, working a groove that’s a little Amy Winehouse, a little Van Morrison, a little Screamin’ Jay and a lot of scrappy soul is the older (45) but not yet hugely famous James Hunter. He was discovered by Van the Man, who used him as a backup vocalist on “Days Like This.” Live he doesn’t have much variety, but he really cooks. Also it’s such a rush when someone can really play instrumentally, do great arrangements and otherwise behave like a gen-u-ine musician:— “Baby Don’t Do It” — James Hunter