- Recorded in just five days in the deep south of Nashville, Tennessee, Music City Soul sees one of Britain's most accomplished urban talents, Beverley Knight, return to her roots following the underperformance of 2004's highly commercial Affirmation. Despite its recording location, the Wolverhampton diva's fifth studio album hasn't gone all country, but instead focuses on the Southern soul sounds of the '60s that influenced her early career. Whether it's a knee-jerk response to the disappointing sales of her "all-bases-covered" predecessor, or a genuine affectionate homage to the likes of Al Green, Sam Cooke, and Aretha Franklin, its 15 tracks are undeniably and authentically old-school, thanks to Mark Nevers' organic production, Knight's full-throttled soulful vocals, and an inspired choice of collaborators and song choices. The Rolling Stones' Ronnie Wood lends his guitar skills to three tracks, including the bluesy feel-good opener "Every Time You See My Smile," and an impassioned gospel take on his own band's 1964 hit "Time on My Side," Robbie Williams' former songwriting partner Guy Chambers offers his trademark melodic sensibilities to both "Black Butta," a rip-roaring slice of rock & roll which owes more than a nod to Ike & Tina Turner's "Nutbush City Limits", and the Aerosmith-goes-funk of "Saviour," while the achingly gorgeous "No Man's Land," a languid but luscious ballad which showcases a rarely seen fragile side to Knight's usual blistering vocal presence, is the album's stand-out track, co-written with Adele and Joss Stone cohort Eg White. But suffering the same fate as many of her releases, Music City Soul can't sustain the same standard throughout, as she fails to make her mark on pedestrian cover versions of Homer Banks' "Ain't That a Lot of Love" and Aretha Franklin's "Rock Steady," while the likes of "Tell Me I'm Wrong" and "Trade It Up" seem more concerned with replicating the period's vintage sound than providing any memorable hooks or melodies. Music City Soul may be one of the more credible Southern soul pastiches, but by looking to the past instead of focusing on the future, Knight is now in danger of surrendering her Queen of U.K. soul crown. ~ Jon O'Brien
Mojo (Publisher) (p.110) - 4 stars out of 5 -- "[A]n album that spits heartfelt fire from every pore, freeing Knight's Aretha-sized tubes to belt out some of her best songs yet."