LIANNE LA HAVAS Is Your Love Big Enough? (Warner Brothers)
"My older man is ready to love me like the woman I am..."
Lianne La Havas is 22 and bold enough to sing about the sort of private stuff many prefer to keep under wraps. On Age, to sparse guitar accompaniment, she analyses the dilemma of being torn between a younger man who doesn't love her back and a bloke "old enough to be my father" who's willing to do what he's told.
What elevates this above your average slippers'n' cocoa Bridget Jones' narrative is the purity of La Havas's vocal delivery. A twinge of vibrato spices tones that recall the sassy Astrud Gilberto classic The Girl from Ipanema.
In 12 months, La Havas has gone from being a backing singer with Paloma Faith to grabbing the attention of tastemakers, such as Jools Holland, Prince and Gary Barlow. The next few months should see her established as the soul sensation her fans believe her to be.
Deeper than Adele, more sophisticated than Amy and more street-wise than Joss Stone, Lianne is quietly adventurous, swinging from bossa-nova (Age) to punk-funk (Forget) and trip-hop soul (Don't Wake Me Up) in the bat of an eyelash.
The warm sense of jazz club intimacy that La Havas generates in live performance isn't sacrificed on this 12-track debut. Aqualung's Matt Hales is the producer who guides her unerringly through a repertoire fuelled by lust (Tease Me), doubt (Don't Wake Me Up) anger and regret (Gone).
The title track is co-written by La Havas, Hales and folk singer Willy Mason, who duets divinely on No Room For Doubt. His worldly-wise "we all make mistakes, we do" both reassuring and challenging.
Like Donny Hathaway (an important influence on Amy Winehouse), La Havas weaves art from uncertainty. Lost & Found, with rippling piano and ethereal backing vocals, is knock-out in its heartbreaking honesty, "You broke me and taught me to truly hate myself..."
Unlike the doomed Hathaway, La Havas remains defiantly good-humoured.