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British Soul Singers Lovingly Revive a Genre

The British have had a long love affair with American soul music.

The Motown and Stax labels were popular in the London clubs of the 1960s, while "rare grooves," or obscure singles, were fuel for the Northern Soul movement of the 1970s and 1980s.

These days, the British are making their own soul music, and doing it very successfully.

The recent wave began in 2003, with the teenager Joss Stone. She emerged with a voice far beyond her years and a natural, eerie affinity for vintage soul. But what no one imagined was that she was simply paving the way for a wave of British soul singers, like Corinne Bailey Rae.

Aside from the big commercial successes, there is also a burgeoning underground scene centered around the monthly Soul Family club night in London.

Terri Walker is an emerging name in that crowd. Her third album, I Am, has a lovely retro sizzle that's funky and liberatingly heartfelt. When she sings, you feel she's lived every joy and heartbreak, and isn't afraid of them.

Maybe that's why we love soul so much: It expresses the passion that our British reserve generally keeps inside.

Or perhaps the music has a resonance that goes beyond most pop. Or maybe it's just one of those inexplicable fatal attractions.

Whatever the reason, soul is back, and the Brits are doing it.

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