Alice Russell: Next Generation Soul
- Words: Joshua P. Ferguson
The voice is unmistakable as it answers the phone: slightly nasal but with depth to it, a touch raspy, and colored with an ever-so-British accent. It belongs to Brighton-based soul chanteuse Alice Russell, who's home for a while, and enjoying a well-deserved respite from a touring schedule that has taken her from Australia to Holland to the U.S. Unfortunately, she explains, her rest is a short one. "On Friday we're going to Paris again. I've just been looking and the flights are all ridiculously expensive, so it's gonna be a crazy one. Road trip, baby!"
Russell is equally as playful and freewheeling a vocalist as she is a traveler, moving effortlessly from high-pitched and gritty funk calls to deep jazz croons. Her versatility and adventurousness shine through on all her releases, from her original full-length My Favourite Letters, to the dozen or so tracks she's made with multitalented labelmate Quantic and his Soul Orchestra (many of which appear on two compilations of her work, Under the Munka Moon I and II). She's currently working on a second album, again recorded by redheaded production whiz Alex Cowan (a.k.a. TM Juke), that's due out on Tru Thoughts at the end of the year.
Drawing on a recent rediscovery of David Axelrod and tons of old soul, the new LP sounds to be a steady progression of Russell's already accomplished work. "For a lot of people, [soul is] black American music from certain places," explains Russell, who, with her rosy cheeks, blonde locks, and azure eyes, is the very definition of blue-eyed soul. "For me soulfulness is just a love of what you do and trying to get that expression out. Soulful music is truthful music with genuine honesty in it."
Russell is the real deal, and the industry is taking note. Thanks to a recent backstage encounter, she struck up a promising friendship with drummer ?uestlove and The Roots. "I recently just went and got up with them at the Black Lilly event in Philadelphia," she boasts, having performed alongside the band and prominent Philly vocalists like Jill Scott and Ursula Rucker. In addition Russell has forthcoming releases with New Zealand dubsters Fat Freddy's Drop in the pipeline, and is keeping her fingers crossed for an appearance on the forthcoming Massive Attack LP.
The breadth of her past, current, and future collaborations begs the question: Are there any other contemporary artists she'd like to work with?
"To be honest' still wanna do some stuff with Will [Quantic], but he's moved to Colombia so if we wanna do that I have to find a little holiday in my spare time. Mr. ?uestlove, I'm still trying to hunt him down. Prince? Stevie Wonder?" She laughs. "Hey, they're only people!"
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