A modest personality with hippie vibes, long, curly blonde hair and thick-rim glasses, at first sight, it would be almost impossible to guess that Allen Stone from Chewelah, Washington is the torchbearer of soul music in the 20th century.
Allen Stone is an artist that has forged his sound on the road. Since the very beginning of his career as a 20-year-old college dropout in Seattle, Stone and his band played tirelessly in the club circuit, raking up around 200 gigs a year and earning a reputation for being a powerful and widely entertaining live act. In fact, his live presence is in great part what has the music industry buzzing about his work.
It doesn’t matter if this guy has blue eyes and looks like he played in Jethro Tull. When you listen to his voice, his heartfelt music, and exquisite arrangements, you feel transported; Allen Stone could have easily fit in Motown’s roster of artists in the late ‘70s alongside acts like The Temptations, Smokey Robinson and Marvin Gaye.
In a time where synthesisers, heavy programming, auto-tune and samples dominate mainstream music, this guy comes in with a guitar and a seven-piece band playing tunes that sound straight out of 1973. Today, a blonde, white musician is the next link in the evolution of soul, the heir of the Stax and Motown sound.
His tenor voice and smooth syncopations remind us of Stevie Wonder, his stage presence a mix of sweetness and militancy. R&B was incredibly influential during the civil rights movement, a genre that in many ways served as the outlet to express the trials and tribulations of the African American community. Stone does not shy away from this aspect of the genre he embraced, adopting that layer of social commentary and introspection with taste and conviction.
Check out ‘Consider Me’ by Allen Stone:
‘Unaware’ when Allen Stone was on Conan
At the time practically an unknown to national audiences, in 2011 the soul crooner was invited to the popular late-night talk show Conan to promote his second eponymous album. Out of the blue, Stone delivered a flawless performance that took everybody by surprise. “That was phenomenal!, Good God! ” said a visibly impressed O’Brien at the end of the presentation. The reception of that performance was so positive, Stone was afterward invited to Jimmy Kimmel Live, Ellen, and The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson.
‘Sleep’ on KEXP
The public radio station in Seattle is known for their impeccable taste and thoughtful selection of artists, being invited to perform at one of their shows is a stepping stone and a badge of honour for any band. In 2012 Stone was invited to play for the station at Mellow Johnny’s bike shop during SXSW. He thrived in a small and difficult venue, delivering a powerful performance with charisma and a mature handling of the crowd.
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‘The Wind’ for Pandora Whiteboard Sessions
The popular streaming service operated by Sirius XM Satellite Radio has a special show where they invite artists to their Oakland headquarters to play for their staff. The performances take place in front of a giant whiteboard where on the day of the show one of the company’s designers creates a unique illustration to represent each artist. In this intimate, minimal setting Stone appeared solo, with just a guitar, delivering a masterful performance that left everyone in awe for its simplicity and raw power.
‘Somebody That I Used To Know’ Live at Bear Creek Studio
Bear Creek Studio is a mythic recording studio set up in a barn on a 4-hectare farm located in Woodinville, Washington. The site is known in the industry for hosting sessions of huge acts like James Brown, Soundgarden, Modest Mouse, Foo Fighters and Eric Clapton.
In 2016, Stone chose the location to record a brutal cover of Gotye’s biggest hit, reimagining the song as a rich soul tune that showcased the full range of his voice and the technical prowess of the band.
‘What’s Going On’ with Marcio Donaldson on American Idol
In 2018 the Chewelah-born musician was invited to American Idol as a guest mentor to sing duets with multiple contestants. One of his most emotional and striking appearances was his cover of Marvin Gaye’s seminal song ‘What’s Going On’ along with contestant Marcio Donaldson,