Breaking & Entering
A look at acts breaking at radio and retail and entering Billboard charts. This week: Joss Stone, Arch Enemy and Brad Wolf.U.K. IDOL: In the era of "American Idol," it's easy to be skeptical of a vocalist like Joss Stone. The 16-year-old U.K.-born singer relies largely on soul classics instead of original material, and had her hand held through the making of her debut album by a veteran A&R executive who runs her label. Oh, and she's the singer who has become known for reinterpreting the White Stripes' "Fell In Love With A Girl" as a R&B song.
Yet Stone's first offering for S-Curve/EMI, "The Soul Sessions," is quickly quieting doubters. Indeed, Stone relies on her support crew rather than dominating them, letting her vocals quiver around the piano of Harlan Howard's "The Chokin' Kind," and lifting the rhythm of Aretha Franklin's "All the King's Horses" into hip-shaking territory. And what a backing crew Stone has, with R&B veterans Betty Wright, Latimore and Timmy Thomas, as well as contemporary neo-soul and rap icons Angie Stone and Ahmir "?uestlove" Thompson, all making appearances on her debut.
The story has it that "The Soul Sessions" came about rather unexpectedly. While Stone was working on an album of original material with Wright, S-Curve president Steve Greenberg was introducing the young British singer to American soul music. The singer took a liking to what she heard, and began recording covers of the classic songs. First intended as a six-song EP, the project soon grew to an album's length, with Stone recording 10 songs over a course of four days.
"I only knew a few songs," Stone recently admitted to Billboard. "Many of them were completely obscure to me. But Steve has every single soul record that you will ever know. He made a list of songs, we listened to them and decided on six or seven. Then it grew from there."
The album was released two weeks ago, and coincided with the singer's American television debut on "The Late Night with Conan O'Brien." "The Soul Sessions" bowed at No. 199 on The Billboard 200 last week, and landed at No. 76 on the magazine's Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart. Stone has already become a favorite of NPR, and sales were heavy on the East Coast, with cities such as New York, Philadelphia and Boston readily embracing the artist.
Stone continues work on her album of original material, which she told Billboard will be more "hip-hop soul" than "The Soul Sessions." She's recording with much of the same backing crew as she did on "The Soul Sessions," as well as producer Salaam Remi (Fugees, Toni Braxton).
Stone will appear on ABC's "Good Morning America" on Oct. 6.
MAKING NEW FRIENDS: If Regan Teresa MacNeil, the possessed tween from "The Exorcist," grew up and started a rock band, she would sing something like Angela Gossow, who leads Scandinavian death metal act Arch Enemy .
The blonde heavy metal pin-up growls her voice hoarse throughout the 12 tracks of "Anthems of Rebellion," the group's latest effort for L.A.-based Century Media. Formed by former Carcass guitarist Michael Amott, Arch Enemy has earned a reputation for stomping out melodically militant death metal, always giving its churning guitars a noticeable hook. Gossow herself heightens the band's tunefulness, carefully articulating each word through her subterranean gurgles.
"Anthems of Rebellion" is Gossow's second album with the group, and Arch Enemy's fifth overall. The band began picking up steam on U.S. shores with 2001's "Wages of Sin." It next tapped Andy Sneap (Earth Crisis, Nevermore) to produce "Anthems of Rebellion," which was preceded by a U.S. club tour.
"Anthems of Rebellion" debuted at No. 15 on Billboard's Top Independent Albums chart earlier this month, and entered at No. 26 on the magazine's Heatseekers tally. The posts marked Arch Enemy's first entries on any of Billboard's charts. In three weeks of release, the album has sold 10,000 units in the U.S., according to Nielsen SoundScan. "Wages of Sin" has sold 26,000 units since its release.
Arch Enemy will be touring North America with Slayer and Hatebreed beginning Oct. 12 in St. Louis. The jaunt will wrap Nov. 29 in Los Angeles. Arch Enemy is currently in the midst of a European tour.
COUNTRY BUSINESS: Country newcomer Brad Wolf dubbed his debut single "Strictly Business," and he wasn't joking. Hailing from a musical family that includes Fiddlin' John Carson and dancehall promoter Dee Carson, Wolf has made a serious study of his favorite sounds.
Wolf, who's been slinging his guitar around Nashville for the past few years, has said in interviews that his family forced him to listen to country-swing legend Bob Wills, and taught Wolf the chords behind every song he enjoyed. Now at the age of 28, Wolf is set to show the world what he has learned, and will release his self-titled debut on Warner Bros. Nashville this fall.
The 10-song effort, a country-bred rock 'n' roll album written entirely by Wolf, is being preceded with the anthemic "Strictly Business." The song debuted two weeks ago at No. 58 on Billboard's Hot Country Singles & Tracks roundup. Last week, the cut was still hanging around at No. 59.
A release date for his album has not yet been set, but a retail single of "Strictly Business," with the slower "A Good Woman is Hard to Find," will hit store shelves Sept. 30.