Life And Soul
In the 1950s, a new musical movement came to be. Spawned from African-American gospel choirs, and taking on elements of the still fledgling R&B movement, soul music came into its own, a joyous celebration of life, love and the power within, delivered with an incomparable passion and fire.
Record labels like Stax, Motown and Atlantic fostered the sound, with artists like Aretha Franklin, Solomon Burke, Al Green and Otis Redding being propelled to international stardom, their indelible mark left on a genre which remains to this day. Whether black or white, soul music still brings that passion, leading all in the know to acknowledge that in order to sing soul, you’ve got to have soul. It’s more than just the music.
“There are plenty of people who can sing technically well… but there’s a difference between Donny Hathaway singing ‘In The Ghetto’, versus Christina Aguilera singing the national anthem,” smiles 26-year-old Allen Stone, the soul singing prodigy who in the past few years, has taken the roots music world by storm. “There’s a specific amount of soul that I don’t think pertains to what you’re doing with your voice, it’s a feeling.”
Stone is widely acknowledged to genuinely have this feeling. The self-proclaimed ‘hippie with soul’ has become a leading proponent of blue-eyed soul, the name commonly given to white purveyors of the genre. “I don’t care what they call me,” he laughs when asked what he thinks of this term. “They can call it gopher music if they like, as long as they’re listening to it.”
Listening to it they are. When Stone first appeared at the Byron Bay Bluesfest last year, he wowed crowds, so much so he’s been invited back this year. As well, his two full-length releases have been critically lauded, particularly his second, self-titled effort, which was re-released in 2012 by ATO Records (and featured Raphael Saadiq’s backing band, as well as Miles Davis’ keysman, Deron Johnson). Stone has been described as a “pitch-perfect powerhouse”, and it’s obvious why.
It’s interesting to note then, that he didn’t discover soul music until well into his teens. He’d grown up singing in his father’s church (“The church I went to was very much contemporary Christian worship music, which wasn’t the greatest interpretation of church music,” he says, clarifying that he didn’t come into soul from a gospel background), and it was by accident that he discovered the music that would end up shaping his life.
“Yeah, when I was 14, someone played me ‘Isn’t She Lovely’ by Stevie Wonder… Stevie’s voice was always a beautiful thing to me. So I just dug in there, from the late ‘60s to the early ‘70s.” From there, Stone has mined the depths, and we see him today as one of the more exciting soul prospects on the scene. The fact he’s so young and has so much more to offer, is a fine thing indeed.
“I’ve started writing, probably three months ago… I’ve picked a producer, and I know what I want the colour and the texture of the record to be,” he says on where to next, his next album. “What do I want to immortalise, with my name on it? Which is always a scary thing for me.” It’ll be interesting to see how this young talent develops, but it seems soul music is still alive and well.
Samuel J. Fell
Gig: Metro Theatre, April 13 / Byron Bay Bluesfest, April 17 & 19
Tickets: www.ticketek.com / www.bluesfest.com.au
Live: Powerhouse new soul
Best Track: ‘Unaware’ from Allen Stone