Soul music was a genre in mourning when Amy Winehouse tragically passed last year. She represented a new breed of soul, a deep contralto vocal that provided an eclectic sound for a contemporary audience. She has broadened the genre and subsequently allowed artists such as Lianne La Havas to shine. La Havas is a folksy soul artist who is subtler than the fiery tones of Amy Winehouse but grittier and richer in sound than Laura Marling, perhaps an edgier Corrine Bailey Rae is a more accurate depiction. “No Room for Doubt”, “Forget” and the lyrical charm of “Age” are highlights from her upcoming album ‘Is Your Love Big Enough’, released in July. She’s emerged as the Bombay Bicycle Club support act on various tour dates including York on the 19th April. La Havas plays 5th May in Leeds, and embarks upon a European tour in June as well as playing festival dates such as Latitude and Camp Bestival in July where her talent will no doubt be missed.
Also emerging as an up and coming modern soul group are The Milk. They played dates throughout the UK, including our very own Stereo in York as well as a generous free show for fans at Nation of Shopkeepers in Leeds. Listeners can see the soulful roots of the Essex band through their latest release, “Broke up the Family”, however it is with the 1974 Bobby Bland cover “Ain’t No Love in the Heart of the City” that the group successfully shine as a soul act. They exude a vocal depth and one can appreciate that this version of modern soul deserves success. Covering old songs and transforming them is exactly what John Legend achieved through his collaborative record; teaming up with The Roots he created ‘Wake Up!’ to produce eleven evocative covers of soul songs. This is a prime example of the regeneration of soul music that has been developing over the past ten years.
The live session of “Ain’t No Love” develops from soul music and becomes a composition of soul and rock. Compositions of genres have become more popular, the latest to date is the self-entitled “Otis”, the first release from the Jay Z and Kanye West’s collaborative album ‘Watch the Throne’. The interpolation of Redding’s vocal works successfully and is becoming a popular trend in music. Similarly, West used this technique for “Gold Digger” using Ray Charles’s classic, “I Got A Woman” as an introduction.
The demand for soul and gospel music in America in the 50s and 60s became a prevalent force that soul music was created from. Stax Records and Atlantic Records played a vital role in the development of Soul, backing Otis Redding and Aretha Franklin, two major artists who remain distinctive in soul music’s sound. Who can forget the theme tune of soul that Franklin provided through having “a little R.E.S.P.E.C.T” which was in fact originally recorded and written by Redding.
Another hero of soul that cannot be forgotten is Stevie Wonder. Announced as the closing night headliner of this year’s Bestival, just two years after his Glastonbury headlining slot his status as a global icon has been reaffirmed. It is a testament to soul music and its longevity that Wonder has been chosen to headline one of the biggest festivals in the U.K this year. At 61 years of age and awarded with twenty two Grammys, Stevie Wonder represents soul at its very finest.