R&B, Blues, Soul & Stax

VOICES Notes and news on R&B, Blues, Soul & Stax releases

Leela Bares Her Soul

19 MAY 10 DAVID NATHAN

On Leela James' Stax debut My Soul, this gritty vocalist and songwriter displays her emotionally expressive style, exuding the passion often associated with the likes of old school Aretha Franklin, Mavis Staples, Chaka Khan and even Tina Turner.

A duet with neo-soul man Raheem DeVaughn, "Mr. Incredible - Ms. Unforgettable" is a powerful R&B throwback. On first listening, "I Want It All" comes across as a statement of personal desire for material possessions but on closer inspection, reveals itself to be an impactful statement for social change. "I Ain't New To This" is pure autobiography as James recounts the challenges of working in a music biz that has yet to recognize her artistry while hitting the road to play before enthusiastic fans worldwide.

Referencing a 1978 classic by The Manhattans, "Tell Me You Love Me" is a contemporary soul ballad with cross-generational appeal, while "It's Over" is a fittingly honest slice from James at her most real. As Leela herself says, "I just wanted to go into the studio and do what moved me at the time, and not think about it too much or not allow it to be something that was too planned. That's what great soul music has always been about from the very beginning." Look for My Soul in stores May 25.