A slew of musicians, from Eli “Paperboy” Reed to Mayer Hawthorne, have helped make contemporary blue-eyed soul an agreed-upon, pervasive phenomena in mainstream pop. Retro enthusiasts, fans and artists alike rally with the cry, Soul music, its timeless.” The self-titled debut from Allen Stone, a scraggly, 24-year-old singer from rural Washington, relies on the premise that Allen Stone’s soul is for everyone, that his warm joy of a voice will surely win over new fans.
When the arrangements click, and Stones hooks hold up, his debut record provides those welcoming moments. Contact High is a light-hearted, clever release as Stone shows off his irresistible falsetto throughout, and the verses on Celebrate Tonight are infectious enough to make the chorus almost sound convincing. In that chorus, Stones voice is smooth and easy, but its unclear whats being celebrated. In fact, many of the songs on Allen Stone come too easily to the gifted singer, who often spends more time selling his idea of soul than challenging his voice.
Album ballad The Wind”, for example, falls short of its promise as the albums slow-grooving centerpiece, crippled by force-fed simile. The fact that many of the other songs feel effortless is the problem on Allen Stone, which proves that soul is at its worse when its not struggling to transcend, instead hiding behind its own spotless, universal curtain.
On stage last fall, Stone claimed, Im sick and tired of soul music looking so crisp and clean and proper! Because my soulI said my soul!is just a little bit greasy. There are enough bright moments on his debut to leave reason to believe that theres a great rawness somewhere to Stonehis voice, his clever (if clunky) songwriting, his knack for a decent hookbut if his soul is greasy, someones done too good of a clean up job this time around.
Essential Tracks: “Contact High”