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Tuesday, October 21, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 43.0° F  Mostly Cloudy
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Alice Russell helps revive British soul
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British blue-eyed soul has been making its mark on pop music ever since Dusty Springfield sang "The Look of Love" in the 1960s.

This decade, the genre has been resurgent. You can thank Amy Winehouse for that. Her Back to Black release was the U.K.'s best-selling CD of 2007. The album fueled the chart success of other white, female British soul singers like Adele and Duffy.

Now it's Alice Russell's turn. Russell, 32, is a commanding vocalist who writes her own songs. She puts the blues in blue-eyed soul.

Her first solo album was 2004's Under the Munka Moon, and she's spent much of this decade collaborating with British neo-soul artists like Quantic, Nostalgia 77 and TM Juke. Her 2008 record, Pot of Gold, is her first to be released on an American label - San Francisco's Six Degrees.

Madison is the smallest market Russell is visiting during her current 15-city U.S. tour. The show was originally set to take place at Café Montmartre but has been moved to the Majestic Theatre.

Russell grew up in Framlingham, Suffolk County, England. She got her musical start singing in a Church of England choir. Her father played the church's historic Thamar Organ, which dates back to 1674.

Maybe that's why Pot of Gold is embellished with some electrifying gospel tracks, most notably a raw, stripped-down cover of Gnarls Barkley's "Crazy." The track is achingly reflective in a way the original never was.

Still, the upbeat pop track "Two Steps" is more typical of the high-energy vibe that grips Pot of Gold. The song's redundant chorus - "two steps forward and 10 steps back" - chronicles the irresistible conflict of love. Crisp, high-pitched violins hang over the melody like sweet neurosis. Staccato drums and horns punctuate a blend of frenzy and flirtation.

"It gets emotional, those feelings that come up between a boy and girl," sings Russell, the tension of romance suspended in the sound of her soaring voice.

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