Preparation is overrated. Impulse is everything. Such was the rebellious wisdom that drove the sessions for Project Mama Earth's astonishing debut EP. In June 2017, five world-renowned musicians met in Devon England for a high-wire act unique in modern music. They had no songs. No chord charts. No game plan. No safety net. Nothing, in fact, but a plan to play and catch the sparks. Where a lesser band would have stumbled, the gauntlet was readily seized by the all-star Mama Earth lineup of Joss Stone (vocals), Nitin Sawhney (guitar), Jonathan Joseph (drums), Étienne M'Bappé (bass/guitar) and Jonathan Shorten (keyboards). "The possibility for catastrophe was huge," nods the drummer. "It could have completely tanked. But the minute everyone stood in the studio, before we even touched an instrument – I just knew."
Typically, artists dispense with introductions after their debut – after all, that is an album designed to introduce them to the world – but neo-soul singer Joss Stone defiantly titled her third album Introducing Joss Stone, thereby dismissing her first two relatively acclaimed albums with one smooth stroke. She now claims that those records were made under record-label pressure – neatly contradicting the party line that her debut, The Soul Sessions, turned into a retro-soul project after Joss implored her label to ditch the Christina Aguilera-styled urban-pop she was pursuing – but now as a young adult of 19, she's free to pursue her muse in her own fashion.
Hot on the heels of Amy Winehouse and Katie Melua, Joss Stone is the latest teenage sensation to be feted by the music industry. There's a massive buzz about Stone at the moment, with both Paul Weller and Lenny Kravitz offering to write songs for her, and soul legend Betty Wright producing this, her debut album. Joss Stone launched her career by singing soul standards so when it came time for a reboot she went back to the beginning, dusting off the old blueprint for The Soul Sessions and following it to a T, right down to replicating its title and giving a contemporary alt-rock hit a soul makeover. First time around, the intent was to prove that teenage Joss had soul bona fides, but in 2012 the purpose of The Soul Sessions, Vol. 2 is to signal how she's done messing around with fleeting fashions and is getting back down to the real business.