RIP Amy Winehouse: Three voices keeping retro soul alive

Categories: Gimme Noise
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It's been one year since the music world lost one of its best young voices and original artists with Amy Winehouse's passing. The singer was found dead in her London home on July 23, 2011, and the impact of her loss is still felt widely in the international music community.

Today, there are dozens of publications remembering the sensational, bright light that Amy Winehouse was, and the irreplaceable contribution she made to soul and pop music. Rather than dwell on the tragedy, Winehouse's death anniversary might be better served by a reflection on where her influence has taken us. Let's take a moment to examine some of the other notable female forces in the soul revival movement today, and some recent players in the Twin Cities area.

For a lot of people, Winehouse brought something new to music world with 2003's Frank and, in particular, her multi-platinum Back to Black in 2007. She was pre-Lady Gaga, a pop star for the new millennium: No sugar or butterflies in her voice or her look, no good-girl niceties. With her retro beehive, heavy eyeliner, and sultry, heartbreaking voice, Winehouse became the poster girl for soul revival.

At the top of the list is Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, a band that many fans were turned on to through the various channels leading from Winehouse to the band. Forget for a moment that a portion of that was owed to Jones' insistence that she was doing soul long before Winehouse -- which, of course, is true. And six songs on Back to Black, including, "Rehab" and "You Know I'm No Good," feature the Dap-Kings.

Sharon Jones has been a memorable presence in the Twin Cities, and her performances are riotous, sweat-driven, '60's-inspired funk fusion. Jones is an irrefutable force in her own right, a hugely talented vocalist who has no problem holding the attention of a wide audience, and while it might be said that Jones influenced Winehouse's sound, it's also true that Winehouse opened the door to a larger audience for Sharon Jones.

You can't talk about Amy Winehouse without also thinking about Adele, that other formidable voice from across the pond. When Adele came to the Xcel Energy Center on August 24 last year -- just one month after Winehouse's untimely passing -- the singer dedicated her cover of Bob Dylan's "Make You Feel My Love" in a tribute. If retro sounds are on trend, no artist is in bigger command of the title than Adele -- a softened version of Winehouse.

Now, more recently, we have the Alabama Shakes. Lead singer Brittany Howard has that tarnished gold glimmer in her voice, the same way Winehouse did, and the band's "garage soul" debut album Boys and Girls is a bruised offering, the honesty Winehouse had, without apologies. With the Alabama Shakes are playing a sold-out show at First Avenue on August 2, it doesn't seem like soul is going anywhere.

Amy Winehouse ushered in a new era in music that's still burning hot today. While we might have lost one of the most unique contemporary voices of the 21st century, Winehouse's influence goes beyond her own music. As quickly as artists rise and fall, it's remembering that their life extends beyond their own output and filters through the cracks of time that the achievement really lies. 

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