Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1101

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Beverley Knight
Beverley Knight

Joss Stone makes chart history with her latest LP entering at number two; Corinne Bailey Rae sees her already-platinum album scaling new heights to No.4; Amy Winehouse breaks new records by debuting impressively at No.7. Yep, there`s no question that 2007`s first quarter has been an amazing one for British female soul artists in America.

In turn, this has arguably created the ideal climate for the unanimously-acclaimed, multi-award-winning Brit-soul Queen herself - Wolverhampton`s Beverley Knight - to finally achieve her long-overdue Stateside breakthrough.

Thus the release this month of Bev's 5th studio album,'Music City Soul', could well prove significant on both domestic and overseas fronts. Recorded over five days in Nashville, Tennessee, (known as “Music City” due to its rich musical heritage), it finds 34-year-old Knight adopting a live, organic soul sound that pushes her gospel roots to the fore. Produced by Mark Nevers, (responsible for last year`s acclaimed Candi Staton LP 'His Hands,') said LP features a fine collection of local, seasoned Tennessee musicians, plus the guitar-playing of legendary Rolling Stone Ronnie Wood on three cuts.

Recorded almost entirely in one take, and already being hailed as “the definitive Beverley Knight album”, 'Music City Soul' unquestionably proves a strong follow-up to 2006`s quarter-million-selling 'Voice - The Best Of Beverley Knight'. An ever-affable Bev discussed with B&S her recent reality TV appearances and her chances of breaking America.

B&S: The thinking behind her new album 'Music City Soul'
BK: Being essentially a live artist who finds most studio work quite constricting, I`ve wanted for so long to do an album that was recorded live. So I basically set out to record something that captured an emotion then-and-there. A never-to-be-repeated-again-type thing where you play, you sing, the `record` button is on… and that`s it. I just wanted to create an emotive record that wasn`t technically perfect but that felt right. Which is why we went to Nashville to use some of the musicians that had worked at Stax Records and had also played with Al Green, Elvis and Aretha.

B&S: Its musical direction?
BK: For me the musical thinking behind 'Music City Soul' meant going right back to the beginning. Not a lot of people in this country understand the roots of where we're at musically today, and where the whole contemporary R&B thing originates. So I basically set out to make an album that sonically took you back to that place, and that vocally took me back to where I'm at my most uninhibited - singing totally emotive songs like I used to in church. You know, my voice has absolutely been honed out of the church, and everything else I've learned after that has been along life's journey. So I particularly wanted to return to that gospel element, something which I think is missing from music today.

B&S: The personal background to the songs' lyrics?
BK: Well, as most people know, the one thing about being successful is the fame. And the fame means people know about your personal life! So a lot of people are now aware that last Summer my relationship with my ex-boyfriend ended. And, though I didn`t train-crash like I have in the past, I did feel a little bit sad and unable to just carry on with my life. I was basically thinking to myself, 'God, here I am, in my thirties and yet again starting over!' And that's what a lot of the songs on 'Music City Soul' reflect. On 'Every Time You See Me Smile, I'm saying that it's ended and it hurts, but you'll never know it because I'm always going to put on a brave face. The single, 'No Man`s Land', meanwhile, is about being stuck between not wanting to go back to the past, and not really being able to move forward.

B&S: How 'Music City Soul' represents a progression from her previous recordings?
BK: For the first time ever in my career, my voice has been captured on record as people hear it live. You know, what shocks most people when they see me perform is the sheer force of the vocal. They're like, 'Wow! Such a big noise from such a little Bev!'` And it's that force that really comes across on this record, because I feel uninhibited and unbridled. Rather than me having to fit into the pocket of a particular groove that's already on tape, we have songs that sometimes speed up and sometimes slow down, because that's just how the music has gone naturally. There's something about everybody playing together at the same time and me singing with them that makes all the difference. You know, soul music is not rehearsed. It's not about replacing one syllable with another, or about 'dropping in' vocals. It's about spontaneity!


The single 'No Man`s Land' and album 'Music City Soul', are both out now through Parlophone.

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