Soulsville – Beverley Knight (2016)

 

“Soulsville” is the eighth studio album by UK Soul Singer/Songwriter Beverley Knight.

When anyone asks me who is my favourite British female singer then I look no further than Beverley Knight. Never has she achieved the fame that her wonderful voice deserved but she still is held is high esteem by myself.

Her music has moved more to the middle as the years have gone on and the early creativity of albums “The B Funk”, “Prodigal Sister” and parts of “Who I am” seem to have long since gone.

The middle of the road sound of her fourth album “Affirmation” may have endeared her to a new type of listener but alienated people like myself who would be craving a more edgier soul / r&b sound.

Knight last released an album in 2011 “Soul UK” which saw her cover an array of UK Soul and Funk music. I enjoyed this album and her vocal performance really enhanced her take on some classic music.

The question for me going into this album is really whether Beverley Knight has any more to offer in terms of creative forward thinking music. Don’t get me wrong the lady could sing the instructions for the dishwasher and still sound wonderful but in terms of her songwriting and the production of the tracks would this release have anything to really sink your teeth into.

Sadly it really is just an empty piece of material which showcases her vocal on some bang average tracks. The live instrumentation on the tracks is something Knight did on her 5th album “Music City Soul” which begs the question to why she needed to return to it on here.

The opening track “Middle Of Love” was the first cut to be taken from the set. Written by Knight this is a old school flavored soul track with Gospel influences throughout. It’s uninteresting and bland.

“When I See You Again” has more of a country feel to the song. Again Knight sounds perfect but the song is just bland. Lyrically it is a bittersweet tale of a relationship which sees Knight talking about a person she hasn’t seen for a while but at the same time the excitement of seeing this person again hasn’t subsided.

“Private Number” is track 3 and a cover of the 1960’s Judy Clay and William Bell track. Knight duets with British Jazz Soul singer Jamie Cullum. I have always found Cullum an unremarkable vocalist and sounds so derived of range it always sounds a little strained to me.

I have never really liked “Private Number” in any form. This cover does little to make me change my mind and considering Knight has just come off the back of an album of covers it is disappointing to see an inclusion of another one.

“All Things Must Change” is a much better effort. I love the chorus where Knight delivers a really gorgeous vocal performance. This old style soul track sees Knight take the whole thing to church in the way she knows how.

“I Can’t Stand The Rain” is track 5. This is a cover of the Ann Pebbles track from 1973. This track has been covered multiple times. Again it’s a song i’ve never been mad on and why Beverly Knight decided to do it on her latest release is baffling to me. It’s just a standard cover with unteresting production.

On “Red Flag” the hand clapping production in the background makes the song a slightly more contemporary number but the country feel of the entire album is retained with a subtle twang of the guitar. At times Knight sounds a but shouty for my liking in a song I don’t feel she sounds comfortable on. Oddly the writing credits see Mark Ronson and Guy Chambers on there.

“Don’t Play That Song For Me” starts off with piano rift as the album drifts into blues territory. This is a cover of the Aretha Franklin song of the same name. Knight is in her comfort zone with such a song but again my problem with yet another cover version has at this point gone from frustration to just plain annoyance.

“Still Here” is an original song and far better. Knight shows she can sing a old soul type song but keep it 21st Century. Her voice is delicious on this song as she addressess this male in a soft but defiant way. She is telling him that if he actually wants something real then she is still here and waiting.

On track 9 we see Knight give another new track “Sitting On The Edge”. I find a common theme in her songwriting is regret and getting a relatinship back from the abyss. Again on this track she conveys this and her vocal really adds to the belife in what she is talking about. The production is stripped down and her voice is really put to the forefront. You could have taken out all music from this song and it would have still packed the same punch.

“Hound Dog” is track 10. Yes people – that “Hound Dog”. The Elvis one. Sounds weird? It is. This features Jools Holland on the boogie woogie piano. It’s a blues and swing production of a song that everyone will know. For me its pretty damn hollow. It is something she might have done on a Jools Holland BBC special when she was asked to be a guest but as a song on her album? No way should this have been constructed or considered.

“I Won’t Be Looking Back” is another number penned by Knight. It sounds like something you have heard before but quite put your finger on it. The structure of the song is pretty generic and lacks much interest. The vocal is crisp, clear and pretty but the song soon becomes tiresome and not one you are likely to revisit.

The final track on this set is “Hold On I’m Coming”. Yes people – ANOTHER cover. This is a duet with Sam Moore (of Sam & Dave). It’s lively, it’s powerful but it just a remake of a well known song. It’s indulgent and ultimately void of any musical credence.

 

My issue with “Soulsville” is that we have awaited since 2009 for Beverley Knight to offer an album of new material. Whilst I appreciate that the woman has been working hard in the West End theater during this time I cannot help but be disappointed that the Beverley Knight who gave us excellent albums such as “The B Funk”, “Prodigal Sister” and “Who I Am” has now just become a covers artist.

Beverley Knight is not old. She (in my opinion) should not be making albums like an artists who is in their 60s or 70s and looking for a quick buck.

I know this is a concept album but surely she has done the deep south thing before on “Music City Soul”? I refuse to believe Beverley Knight cannot still have impact on popular music in the UK.

This album is unexciting, not worth the wait and hugely disappointing from a vocalist who very few can come close to matching.

 

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