Allen Stone, the story goes, learned to sing at church. The Sunday practice sessions speak for themselves: Stone is a singer with such divine control of his instrument it’s sinful. He’s a supremely smooth vocalist with Louis Armstrong’s broad vibrato at the end of his phrases. At 25, he released his self-titled album on ATO Records, and he’s now touring to support it. I first heard “Sleep” in an acoustic session on YouTube, and was hooked.
The recorded version is even slicker than the version I first heard. Right as the song kicks off, dig those handclaps, that muted guitar line. The buildup before the first chorus and the entrance of the backup singers at 0:30 is wonderfully calculated. These backup singers are just as controlled as Stone, and add a nice harmonic complexity to the track. The backup singers are also key players in the song’s breakdown at 1:40, especially their exasperated line read on the line “Take a pill, Al.”
Stevie Wonder is going to be inevitably brought up in all future discussions of Stone. The biggest similarity is in their vocal delivery, but I think, at least on this track, Stone shows a slightly earthier—and certainly more concise—sensibility than Wonder. The fact that the comparison can be made at all speaks very well of Stone.
I saw Allen Stone live this past spring in Paris at La Flèche d’Or. The band was just as tight in person, but what really made me believe in Allen Stone was the look I saw on his face as he came out the stage door. His entire face lit up in the moment before he came out to greet the crowd—the same look I had when I first heard this song. Keep an eye on Allen Stone, ladies and gentlemen.