This Day In Music: (2003) - Iconic funk superstar, James Brown, and country music legend, Loretta Lynn, were honored for their contributions to US culture. The pair were invited to a gala attended by President George W. Bush at the Kennedy Arts Centre in Washington.
Allen Stone, a 24-year-old Seattle songwriter, was an unabashed throwback when he performed at a packed S.O.B.’s on Wednesday night. He talked about cellphones and social networks and sang about, among other things, the clout of the Christian right and a culture of greed. But his music reached back four decades to the late 1960s and early ’70s, when songwriters like Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, Donny Hathaway and Bill Withers brought introspection and social commentary to soul music.
He didn’t look the part. “I will never ask for immunity/ because I was born and raised in the Caucasian community,” he sang in “Last to Speak,” a song that reels off political observations, then apologizes for a lack of humility. “We will never find racial unity/ unless we find equal opportunity,” the song adds.
With long blond hair and chunky eyeglasses, wearing a Sonics jersey under a mismatched sweater, Mr. Stone was a study in looking unstudied — the better, perhaps, to surprise the audience when he let loose a tenor voice with the eagerness and frisky syncopations of Mr. Wonder, coupled at times with Michael Jackson’s percussive flourishes. Between songs he professed modesty, yet when he sang he was long-breathed and confident, savoring every complaint and exhortation.
His band used a vintage, gospel-rooted lineup including both organ and (electric) piano, with Mr. Stone often strumming an acoustic guitar. Most of the set came from his second album, “Allen Stone,” released on Oct. 4 on his own entirely independent Stickystones label. “I would love every single one of you to leave with a copy of that record,” he said near the end of the set, and went on to urge anyone who couldn’t afford its $10 price to talk to him about a discount.
Mr. Stone is a pastor’s son who grew up singing in church, and every so often he offered preacherly cadences. In an implicit challenge to some of his fellow soul revivalists — like, perhaps, the very buttoned-down Mayer Hawthorne — Mr. Stone declaimed: “I’m sick and tired of soul music looking so crisp and clean and proper! Because my soul — I said my soul! — is just a little bit greasy.”
It’s also strategic. His songs don’t hide their kinship to the past, but he gives them clear-cut melodies of his own. Mr. Stone has also absorbed the pacing and showmanship of his heroes, switching off between party tunes and messages, mingling sincerity and shtick. He split the room for a dance off, urging “Get nasty!” Midset, he dismissed the band to play two songs by himself, exposing the thinner side of his voice.
But he was better off with the band, and he was saving musicianly exploits for the set’s homestretch. He unleashed a supple, Prince-like falsetto for “Unaware,” an economic commentary disguised as a love ballad. He whistled a solo in “Satisfaction,” which shares only its title with the Rolling Stones song. And for “Reality,” a mournful but benign breakup song, he sat solo playing electric piano, an instrument he hadn’t yet touched, as if hinting that there’s still more of his music to be discovered.
Article originally appeared on the NY Times (http://www.nytimes.com) and was written by Jon Pareles.