It’s been more than five years since Joss Stone’s debut, The Soul Sessions, was nominated for the coveted Mercury Prize, so it’s easy to forget that the English songstress is only 22.


At her best, Stone’s records sound like Motown by way of Manchester; at worst, they’re pedestrian R&B by a white girl with a nose ring. Colour Me Free leans toward the latter, though not for a lack of special guests. Stone enlists Jeff Beck and Sheila E. on “Parallel Lines,” with Beck soloing over a Stevie Wonder–like groove. Saxophonist David Sanborn does his best work since Ween’s “Your Party” on “I Believe It to My Soul.” Even Nas makes an appearance, on “Governmentalist,” an attempt at Curtis Mayfield–style blaxploitation that comes up woefully short. Stay tuned, however, for the best track, “4 and 20,” a slow-burning comedown featuring horns and backup singers who sound like they’re waltzing through New Orleans’ French Quarter.

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