Nikka Costa, 'Pebble to a Pearl' (Gofunkyourself/Stax)

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Pebble to a Pearl
Critical Mass
Label: Gofunkyourself/Stax

by Barry Walters

Having paired with future Amy Winehouse producer Mark Ronson back in 2001,this Prince-approved dynamo is so ahead of the white-chick, retro-soul bandwagon that she's already celebrating her freedom from major-label shackles. On Pebble to a Pearl -- an authoritative, refreshingly organic pop-funk manifesto featuring musicians who've played with Al Green and Stevie Wonder -- the exhilaration of liberation literally screams from R&B workout "Can't Please Everybody." Such strict adherence to instrumental traditions would stymie a less ballsy singer, but Costa's pissed and righteous lyrics are as vital as her beats are homesick.

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