Pop & Hiss

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Coachella 2009: Joss Stone grows artistically

April 18, 2009 |  6:35 pm


It's gotta be tough being a musical trailblazer who gets left behind and then overlooked in favor of those who follow in their wake.

Like, remember the early days of British female neo-soul singers -- you know, way back in 2003?

That's when a preternaturally gritty-sounding teen named Joss Stone dazzled the pop world with a smoky set of pipes that sounded like they belonged in Muscle Shoals in 1963.

Then came Lily Allen and a nuclear meltdown by the name of Amy Winehouse, and Stone didn't seem quite so unique.

The good news out of her set Saturday afternoon at Coachella was that she shows positive signs of growing artistically into that voice as the years go by.

She included several new songs that exhibit a fuller understanding of love's complexities, although her seven-piece band -- especially the synth string parts -- cast a glossy smooth-jazz sheen over some where a greasy, bar-band attack would better suit them.

She's still singing too academically, missing that lived-in authenticity the best soul singers bring. But she's only 22. With a little more life experience -- hopefully less than Winehouse has been stockpiling -- she may well develop the soul to go with those gloriously rusty vocal cords.

 --Randy Lewis

Photo by Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times