Editors' pick

Angie Stone

Rhythm and Blues
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Editorial Review

The Park has become one of the area’s strongest venues for live soul and R&B music this year, thanks to packed “unplugged” performances by Bilal, Jaguar Wright and Teedra Moses. This week, it’s Angie Stone’s turn. We haven’t heard much from the honey-voiced soul singer since “Baby” was climbing the charts back in 2007, but Stone has some of the best pipes in the game. She’s performing toward the end of happy hour, which runs from 5 to 8 and includes $5 cocktails. (Later on that night is a joint birthday party for the Wizards’ Josh Howard and Joe Haden.)

ANGIE STONE

Album Review: "Unexpected"

Angie Stone titled her latest album "Unexpected" after her father died without warning while the project was being recorded. His death forced the singer to pause, reflect and regroup. The result is the strongest set of songs and performances since Stone broke through as a leader of the neo-soul movement with her first two solo albums in 1999 and 2001. Most important, the event sent her back to her roots in the First Nazareth Baptist Church of Columbia, S.C.

It's not that "Unexpected" is a gospel album, for the songs include such titles as "Kiss All Over Your Body" and "Hey Mr. DJ," and most of the tracks are generated by synths, samples and drum machines -- and on "Tell Me" the vocals are filtered through Auto-Tune. But most of the vocals have that church quality: yearning on the verses and happily reassured on the choruses, big and uninhibited throughout. This taps into Stone's best instincts and draws her to well-written R&B numbers.

"I Don't Care" may boast a terrific funk bottom, but the lyrics declare that the singer is "heaven-sent." On "Free," she encourages a woman trapped "inside an invisible cage" to fly away from a bad relationship; the gospel piano chords and exhorting soprano suggest a church service. So does the simmering "Maybe," in which a beleaguered lover declares, "I don't need a maybe; I need to be sure."

-- Geoffrey Himes, Weekend (April 2010)