The makers of the SATs recently decided to ditch their analogies section, but if they hadn't, a culturally inclined test-maker might have been tempted to use this one: "Joss Stone is to soul music as Avril Lavigne is to punk." Fortunately, the analogy falls apart upon examination. A pale, willowy, British 16-year-old with a rich, powerful voice, Stone makes her debut with The Soul Sessions, a 10-song collection of covers performed in a classic soul style. It's probably fair to suspect a certain amount of outside career guidance, since few 16-year-olds would know to dig deep enough into the soul catalog to unearth songs made famous by marginal-but-great soul singers (Joe Simon, Carla Thomas), much less to hire Angie Stone and Miami soul greats like Betty Wright and Timmy Thomas for the band. But whatever nudging Joss Stone might have received, she possesses a deep-felt connection to the music that a certain Canadian punkette could only wish for. It takes nerve to cover the Aretha Franklin classic "All The King's Horses," but Stone puts her own spin on it, as she does throughout The Soul Sessions. Conceived as a warm-up for a proper debut, Sessions establishes Stone as a formidable interpreter, whether she's working for nearly eight minutes with minimal accompaniment on The Isley Brothers' "For The Love Of You," leading the rave-up "Super Duper Love (Are You Diggin' On Me) Pt. 1," or transmogrifying The White Stripes with the ?uestlove-produced "Fell In Love With A Boy." Occasionally, the project's oddness does overwhelm the music. It's difficult to reconcile the world-weary toughness of "Dirty Man," in which Stone kicks out a cheating paramour, with the knowledge that she's barely old enough to drive, much less take a live-in lover. For the most part, however, she sounds comfortable enough in soul music's devastating emotional lows and rapturous highs to make The Soul Sessions sound like a natural reflection of the teen experience, and a deeper one than pre-packaged rebellion could ever achieve.
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