I’d not heard a single word about this release before it arrived last week; yet it has all of the hallmarks of being a huge International story, because drummer extraordinaire Jonathan Joseph has assembled a truly All-Star cast, made up of the legendary Nitin Sawnhey on guitar, Etienne M’Bappe on bass and Jonathan Shorten on keyboards (Google their names to see who they have recorded with!) and if that wasn’t enough Joss Stone not only sings, but wrote the songs and provided board, lodging and her recording studio in Devon; where the album was written and recorded from start to finish in 10 short days.
That exciting dynamic coupled with the quality of the players oozes class right from the start, title track MAMA EARTH which combines a cool jazzy vibe with some danceable African rhythms which weave like a golden thread through every song and the short interludes too.
The playing is quite extraordinary at times, with Spring sounding like something Blue Note may have released in the 1960’s heydays and on Entanglement Sawnhey’s intricate guitar playing and M’Bappe’s bass runs twist and turn like a mountain road as Joss Stone’s voice swoops and soars like a Jazz Diva on a simply stunning song, which wouldn’t be out of place on a film soundtrack.
There are only six songs here and each is spectacularly different from each other with What Would She Say? sounding as if it had been written for Nina Simone but actually suits Joss Stone’s vocal gymnastics even better; and Breathe which brings everything to a beautiful conclusion could bring tears to a glass eye.
In between each song there is a short interlude; and these are fascinating for a number of reasons; partly because the International flavour of each truly showcases the diversity of the assembled players; but also because they give the songs room to breathe and the listener time to allow their senses to return to the default setting.
Which now brings me to the ‘favourite track’ moment; which was quite easy and difficult at the same time and in equal measure, simply because Waterfall is graceful and almost Bluesy in character; but the way Joss Stone delivers the words almost reminds me of Sade; but it just may be the finest song Miss Stone has ever recorded…..and she has recorded some stunners in her short career.
Project Mama Earth is a strange beast; as it will either sink without trace or go on to win Awards aplenty all around the world; and I expect it to be the latter; but at the very least it will hopefully draw attention to the Community Development Network in Cameroon from where the roots of this magical record were born.
Released Friday 10th November 2017
#This review was originally posted on the Rocking Magpie website. https://rockingmagpie.wordpress.com/