Even summing their ages, Monday night's Electric Factory headliner
and her special guest
still aren't as old as the classic school of soul-testifying music they're emulating and reviving.
A mere sprite of 20, the British-born, model-pretty Stone is out working material from her new third album, oddly titled "Introducing Joss Stone" as an indicator of her artistic emancipation from the managers and producers who've been tending to her since she was 14.
On the disc, her fiery stylings have been smartly updated with hip-hop production frills by Raphael Saadiq and special guests Common and Lauryn Hill, a recluse whom Stone stalked for two months.
The set also boasts lots of autobiographically minded, sassy-girl-in-the-big-city co-writes by the artist, putting her in the same circle as fellow Brits Amy Winehouse and Lily Allen.
Yet for all that's new, the set still finds Stone's vocals channeling the stylistic spirit of soul music's golden-era divas. She even quotes, with due respect, a famous Aretha Franklin vocal line ("What you want, baby I got it") on her self-penned "Headturning."
The 26-year-old Shaw is making his CD debut with "This Is Ryan Shaw." But you'd never guess fledgling status from his sizzling, soaring pipes or his knowledge and devotion to the wailing, joyous, macho-man R&B music of the 1950s and '60s.
Mixing golden nuggets from the catalogs of Bobby Womack ("Looking for a Love"), Wilson Pickett ("I Found a Love") and Jackie Wilson ("I'll Be Satisfied"), with vintage dance novelties like "Do the 45" and originals that sound true to the era, Shaw's soulsational sound is destined to get you off your duff and boogalooing down Broadway (or Broad Street).
As a pale-skinned, comfortably brought-up English girl, Stone has taken a lot of grief for her co-optation of a vocal style and music rooted in working-class black American culture. Likewise, there's a seeming disconnect between that big, knowing voice and her age.
When her first album of torch-bearing soul covers came out, Stone was just 15, leading some critics to doubt her "honesty," though fans have bought in big, already snapping up 7 million Stone albums.
In our chat, Stone was quick (and quick-witted) in defending her place in the big scheme of things. Yes, she's still sufficiently youthful to laugh about her new pink hair (so long, blonde bombshell look) and her "clumsy" stage moves.
The reason she performs barefoot? "So I don't trip myself up on my shoes."
In the next breath, though, she lets you know she's talking about the rocky road of love from personal travels. And she grumbles like her mum about the sad state of today's R&B music, and how she's not going to go there.
"It's just noise that highly paid strippers can dance to," Stone said. "Let's make auto tune [pitch correction technology] illegal and see how many of these people lose their jobs. We'd have less artists, but it'd be better. I'll admit it - I'm a bit of a music snob. My mission is to bring back some real music, with real values, real emotions, real players."
Jazz-tinged R&B balladeer Anita Baker (rather than the oft-compared Franklin and Janis Joplin) was the artist Stone heard and sang along with most as a kid, "which is how I came to sound like I do."
And yes, she's been feeling and hurting about love - the core subject of her music - "since I was 7 or 8, and first had my heart broken by a guy. . . .
"The problem is, people label music - American music, English music, black music, white music, teen music, adult contemporary music, whatever," continued the singer. "It all originates from somewhere, but it's not owned by any country or any race or human being. . . . To try and keep music just in one place, in separate pockets, is naive. American format radio tries to do that, but really, it's silly."
Ryan Shaw came to the calling of soul-testifying music like many of the artists he admires and emulates. Raised in a deeply religious Pentecostal family in Decatur, Ga., he learned to sing in church, then formed a gospel group with his four brothers.
"It was all that we knew. We didn't listen to secular or pop music in or out of our house," Shaw related in our recent phone chat.
Next stop for him was "singing and badly acting" in the touring gospel musicals "A Good Man Is Hard to Find (Part II)" and "I Know I've Been Changed."
Then Shaw started his "exodus" toward the secular music world, first joining the resident cast at the New York-city-based Motown Cafe to perform Detroit classics, then hooking up with the Fabulous Soul Shakers, a group that specialized in classic soul and doo-wop.
"I discovered this was where my voice lives, where my soul lives," he said.
Like Joss Stone, Shaw despairs at musical stereotyping and the current state of the art.
"It makes people strive to be something they're not, creates self-loathing and cravings for things they can't get - chicks, expensive booze, Escalades . . .
"Somebody told me that a few days before he died, James Brown called Rev. Al Sharpton into his hospital room and told him, 'You gotta go tell our people to sing each other up, instead of singing them down.' That's what this music I'm doing is all about.
"It's about life and love, good things that are attainable by everybody. It's still basically gospel. The energy and feel is still there. Just the words are different." *