Influenced by the likes of James Brown, Donny Hathaway and Mavis Staples, talented singer-songwriter Leela James has been making her own winning mix of bluesy soul and R&B for more than a decade. Her sixth studio album, Did It for Love (stream it below), which explores all the different sides of love, came out just a few weeks ago. “I don’t really try to think of concepts when I make music, I just go with the natural flow of the evolution of the making of the album,” James tells Rated R&B. “As I’m recording, sometimes it’ll take a life of its own. When I’m writing the songs, they’re usually based off direct and indirect experiences. It kind of tells its own story.” Touring in support of the new music, James (above, performing “Don’t Want You Back” for Baeble Music) has been making her way across North America with English singer-songwriter Daley (below, doing “Alone Together” live in concert), who’s known for mashing together soul, electronic music and pop into his own unique sound—and has been compared to Simply Red’s Mick Hucknall. See them both on Saturday night at the world-famous Apollo Theater.
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A self-described “hippie with a soul,” Allen Stone grew up outside Spokane, Wash., raised on gospel music. But once in his teens, he discovered secular music and took to soul, R&B and singer-songwriter fare, which should come as no surprise since as a musician he’s been compared to the heady likes of Stevie Wonder and Donny Hathaway. Stone’s breakthrough came with the 2011 self-release of his eponymous second album (stream it below)— rereleased the following year by ATO Records. AllMusic approved: “[O]ne would never expect to look at him that he possesses one of the most foul voices this side of Marvin Gaye, with a joyous, positive feel and energy to match…. There’s a bright future here. Soul is where you find it.” A follow-up album (stream a preview below) is due out later this year, and while Stone’s voice is terrific in its recorded form, the engaging, energetic performer (above, covering “Is This Love” at last year’s Bonnaroo) is best experienced live. And he just so happens to be playing Terminal 5 on Thursday night. Boston R&B five-piece Bad Rabbits and Los Angeles pop and soul singer Roméo Testa open the show.