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Listening Room: Joss Stone, Modest Mouse and more...
Joss Stone, “Introducing Joss Stone” (Virgin) ***
“Introducing ...” is an odd title for an artist who’s already released two albums that have sold more than 7 million copies. But it signals Joss Stone’s graduation from soulsinging whiz-kid prodigy into a confident and mature vocalist staking a convincing claim somewhere between contemporary compatriots such as Beyoncé and legends and idols like Aretha Franklin — and even directly asking for a little R-E-S-P-E-C-T on the album’s swaying second track “Headturner.” Elsewhere, the 19-year-old Brit channels the Supremes (“Girl They Won’t Believe It,” “In the Arms of My Baby”), the Jackson 5 (“Baby, Baby, Baby”), Prince (“Put Your Hands on Me”) and plenty of Sister ’Re, but don’t mistake “Introducing ...” as a mere throwback or collection of homages. Tony! Toni! Tone!/ Lucy Pearl veteran Raphael Saadiq’s production is brimming with slinky guitar lines, horns and seriously in-thepocket rhythm sections, but also incorporates enough hiphop touches and contemporary arrangements to keep these 15 tracks decidedly in the now. And while Stone shows her ability to shout bama-lama with the best of her forebears on “Girl They Won’t Believe You” and the set’s fi rst single, “Tell Me ’Bout It,” she also shines when things quiet down on “I’m Falling,” “What Were We Thinking” and “Music,” which features a rare guest rap by Lauryn Hill. She already enjoyed a healthy profile, but “Introducing ...” makes it nice to meet Stone all over again.
Modest Mouse, “We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank” (Epic) ***
In 2004, these Washington State indie heroes made a mainstream smash with “Float On” and the platinum, Grammy-nominated album “Good News For People Who Love Bad News.” The surprises continue on its seventh album, with former Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr joining the lineup and making an immediate impact both tonally and melodically. “We Were Dead ...” is crackling with clever, catchy songs such as the first single, “Dashboard,” the funky, Talking Heads-like “Florida,” the anthemic “Missed the Boat” and the herky-jerky “We’ve Got Everything.” “Spitting Venom,” meanwhile, is 8 1 /2 minutes of cascading dynamic changes that’s still as much fun to listen to as the more economical tracks that surround it. The “Ship” is definitely still sailing.
NEW AND NOTEWORTHY
Adult., “Why Bother?” (Thrill Jockey) — The idiosyncratic Detroit duo offers some more “uneasy listening for uneasy times” on its fourth album.
Baby Boy da Prince, “Across the Water”
(Republic) — The New Orleans rapper’s new house party includes guests such as Mannie Fresh, Lil’ Boosie and Nina Sky.
Andrew Bird, “Armchair Apocrypha” (Fat Possum) — The seventh album from the Chicago muso is a textured affair augmenting his violin with guitar, glockenspeil — and whistling.
The Book of Knots, “Traineater” (Anti-) — Tom Waits, Mike Watt and Jon Langford are among the guests on the second album by this collective of well-credentialed New York sidemen and women.
C-Murder, “Screamin’ 4 Vengeance” (Priority/Capitol) — The Louisiana rapper says his piece about Hurricane Katrina and his overturned murder conviction, with help from Chamillionaire, Slim Thug, LeToya and Pimp C.
Insane Clown Posse, “Tempest” (Psychopathic) — Clown time continues with the latest from this indefatigable Detroit rap duo.
J Dilla, “Ruff Draft” (Stones Throw) — A welcome re-release of the late Detroit hip-hop producer-artist’s 2003 solo debut, which saw limited release on vinyl only.
Low, “Drums and Guns” (Sub Pop) — The lowkey Minnesota trio’s eighth full-length features several song road tested on the group’s last tour.
Jesse Malin, “Glitter in the Gutter” (Adeline) — Malin’s third solo album was delayed from its original March 6 release date, but it still comes with a loaded guest list that includes Bruce Springsteen, Ryan Adams, Jakob Dylan and members of Queens of the Stone Age and Foo Fighters.
Stephen Marley, “Mind Control” (Republic) — Another of Bob’s boys spins out of the Melody Makers for his first solo album with a guest list that includes Ben Harper, Mos Def and younger brother Damian “Jr. Gong” Marley.
Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard and Ray Price, “Last of the Breed” (Lost Highway) — The formidable country trio unites for a twodisc set of favorites, with a couple new songs thrown into the mix.
Otep, “The_Ascension” (Capitol) — The Los Angeles headbangers recorded its third album in New Orleans throughout 2006.
Ricky Skaggs and Bruce Hornsby, “Ricky Skaggs and Bruce Hornsby” (SonyBMG/Legacy) — Skaggs and Hornsby put a bluegrass touch on a batch of songs that includes Hornsby’s “Mandolin Rain” and, yes, Rick James’ “Super Freak.”
Tracey Thorn, “Out of the Woods” (Astralwerks) — The Everything But the Girl singer emerges from a fi veyear, child-rearing sabbatical with her first solo recording in 25 years.
Elliot Yamin, “Elliot Yamin” (Hickory) — The “American Idol” fi nalist’s debut includes his signature rendition of Leon Russell’s “A Song For You”
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