Back when neo-soul still possessed its end-of-the-millennium novelty, a new artist could show up with a Fender Rhodes and a few warm bodies and win nearly instantaneous praise. In the nostalgic '90s, everyone from D'Angelo to Maxwell to Macy Gray got a pass from plenty of writers, this one included, as much for what they weren't (practitioners of the slick, sequenced R&B that had dominated music for a decade) as for what they were (skillful revivalists whose jones for '70s soul put them in the right place in a retro-obsessed time).
Thus, few got beyond Angie Stone's magnificent voice and afro to remark upon the earthy singer's exceedingly plain material. But her similarly unflashy third album arrives in an era that's more unforgiving all around, and while it's a handsome collection, once again built around her warm, welcoming vocals, it's disappointing in the way third albums so often are: You realize that this is all you're likely to get. Which could certainly be worse; the obligatory get-lost number, "U-Haul," and the latter-day Roberta-and-Donnie duet with Anthony Hamilton, "Stay for a While," have substantial if subtle charms, and the whole of Stone Love is solid soul. But after a few listens, you'll probably trade it for something unstable and exciting.
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