(Herald rating: * * * * *)

Hearing Joss Stone's voice and seeing what she looks like can bring on the urge for an exorcism - to get the ghost of whatever veteran soul-woman has possessed her to take leave of the English 16-year-old's body. It is initially incongruous, to say the least, hearing her sing this set mainly made of soul obscurities from the likes of the Isley Brothers, Aretha Franklin and others, especially with its lyrics of adult love gone bad on the likes of Victim of a Foolish Heart or the bitter blues of Dirty Man.

But with her strong, emotive voice she nails it time and again, and with performances that aren't an excuse for the vocal acrobatic show you imagine this would have been had Stone been America's next bright young thing.


Recording with a group of Miami session vets, The Soul Sessions sounds like it's trying just hard enough to evoke the late-60s/early-70s spirit of much of the songs.

And when Stone finds a song that wasn't born before she was - changing the White Stripes' hit into Fell in Love with Boy - she injects its liquid funk arrangement with the sort of sensuality that would make Jack White blush, happily.

It's scary to think what Stone's voice might sound like once she's done some livin'. And the question remains of what might happen when it is applied to original material. But for now, The Soul Sessions is the announcement of the first great new voice of 2004.

Label: Virgin