Colette’s Corner: Right Proper Soul Kats & Kittens

26 Aug
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” — Duffy
Here’s another of her originals — a scratchy, beseeching ballad:
 — “Syrup and Honey” — Duffy
Palol 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 Nutini
He 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 Nutini
I 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  Nutini
James Morrison (no relation to Jim, or The 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:
  —  “You Give Me Something” — James Morrison
And one of his originals:
  — “Call the Police” — James Morrison
Then 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 Morrison
Finally, 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












Posted by on August 26, 2008 in colette's corner, Soul



10 responses to “Colette’s Corner: Right Proper Soul Kats & Kittens

  1. Linda T

    August 27, 2008 at 1:10 pm

    Great post Colette, thanks! I had heard many of these artists’ names before but hadn’t explored their work.

    Watching these performances was an interesting exercise for me about the relationship between song and singer — when it works and when it doesn’t work (for my ears of course).

    Duffy — man, I sure did love the bones of the song, but I simply couldn’t listen to her voice. If she’d ditch the babydoll and explore the grit she could be really exciting.

    Paulo — right voice, wrong song(s) — again for me. He looks to be very interesting and I hope he can find his footing between originality and making it in the music world.

    James Morrison — wow, what a distinction between the first and second videos! In the first video he had the right voice but the song was a bit too pop-ballady for me. But as soon as “Call the Police” started, I actually said out loud “HERE we go!!” It was as if the piece to a difficult puzzle had finally slipped into place. That song just rocked my socks off.

    Jamie Lidell and James Hunter — both of them have the right song and the right voice in a great meld. They seem like artists that I want to get to know a little better and their sound will only grow on me more.

    Thanks again!

  2. Colette

    August 28, 2008 at 12:12 am

    I hear you Linda — I think it’s interesting that relation of singer to song. I’m waiting for tne next batch of Stevie Wonder/James Taylor/Joni Mitchell songcrafters/plerformers to turn up, and they sure haven’t yet. It’s often stronger on the performance end.

    But Duffy is growing on me, and I really like Paolo’s somewhat quirky choice of material. I really hope Jamie Lidell keeps singing hard, and falls out of love with the techno-crap.

    Anyway, thanks for responding, glad you found these folks interesting….

  3. colette

    August 28, 2008 at 5:16 pm

    care to chime in MM? Or Shrew?

  4. music maven

    August 28, 2008 at 6:09 pm

    Yes, I do but will have to wait until tomorrow or the weekend. Dealing with a very busy job and a hurricane currently. Definitely want to chime in, though.

  5. music maven

    August 29, 2008 at 7:46 am

    Ok, here’s my two pennies…

    I’ve never been very enamored with British soul. For some reason, it just doesn’t “work”. The oddness of Duffy and Paulo Nutini’s voices turn me off just enough that I just can’t get into their music. When everyone was ga-ga over Paulo a couple of years ago, I tried to like him, but it was just a-ight for me.

    Perhaps one of the reasons these British artists, including Joss Stone, have never resonated with me (with the exception of Corinne Bailey Rae) is that it feels as though they are imitating past or other current artists. For me, James Morrison is a not as compelling Ray LaMontagne.

    And, Jamie Lidell…I thought Multiply was brilliant. It’s still one of my favorite songs. I liked it so much when first exposed to it, that I bought the CD. With the exception of What’s the Use, there really wasn’t any other song on the CD that I can get into. The more I looked into him and saw the techno-stuff, the less I liked. He is talented, just not my bag. Still LOVE Multiply though.

    Now, James Hunter, I totally dig. He reminds me alot of the old Swamp Rock/Cajun Soul guys I used to hear growing up. I’ll have to do some investigating of him.

    For my money, I like the young American Soul artists like Marc Broussard, Amos Lee and John Legend (I know, we can debate if these are real “Soul” artist, but you get the picture).

  6. Colette

    August 29, 2008 at 2:30 pm

    Just saw Amos Lee live and he was really great. For me, Legend is more promise than delivery so far. Saw him too, and it’s a lot of glossy make-out music for my taste. Want him to dig in, and get down.

    I’m a little dubious about some of these kids, but they’re so young and ardent I want to give them room to grow. Duffy is sort of a cross between a soulster and Petula Clark, and I like her tunes (even though she’s a bit stiff as a performer).

    I don’t think James Morrison is really trying for the existential angst of Ray Lamontagne, who to me is an utterly singular artist who truly can’t be imitated!! I think Morrison has something sweet and real on his own, but there’s that question of how it will be developed.

    Paolo is unique, and I’m liking the neo-beatnik flavor and a very craggy sense of soul in there.

    As for James Hunter — well, that’s a mature artist in his 40s . Though as I mentioned his songs tend to sound the same when he performs, he’s really got his groove down. hope he’ll get more attention, maybe in the way our fave Sharon Jones has.

    After getting back to some classic R & B, I hope to post on a few other young Americans with soul you may find interesting…..

  7. Colette

    August 29, 2008 at 2:33 pm

    oops, two more things:

    1) Anyone see Stevie Wonder rock the house with Take 6 before Obama’s big acceptance speech in Denver? Whatever your political persuasion, Stevie was wonderful — and I loves me some Take 6 too.

    2) best wishes & safe keeping to all our peeps in the path of that hurricane. Scarey days, and you’re in my thoughts and my hopes that storm dissipates before doing harm…..

  8. Adurian

    August 30, 2008 at 9:11 am

    Hey there.

    I’m not sure whether this fella fits unto your kind of British soul, but you might want to listen to Jamie Scott. I’m not sure what genre he is, but I always thought he was similar to James Morrison and Paolo Nutini, so I thought maybe you will like him.


  9. Colette

    August 30, 2008 at 11:24 am

    Thanks Adurian! I think he’s less soul and more soft, sweet pop, but here’s a clip I found — interesting, isn’t it — how some of the English singers have an accent and others sound very American? This guy definitely sounds like a Brit:


  10. barelydirty

    October 23, 2008 at 10:55 am

    Thanks for the list of music! I love Amy Winehouse, James Morrison, and the old album of Jamie Lidell (don’t like any of the techno/electronic stuff he’s expanded upon). Love old favourites like Van Morrison. Tried to find James Hunter & Sharon Jones here in the USA, and couldn’t come up with anything for them! What’s the name of their albums?

    Great post!


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