Picks and Pans Review: Jill Scott

updated 09/06/2004 at 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 09/06/2004 01:00AM

Beautifully Human: Words and Sounds Vol. 2
R&B
CRITIC'S CHOICE

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Jill Scott gave us a memorable introduction with her 2000 debut, Who Is Jill Scott? Words and Sounds Vol. 1, writing an exciting new chapter in neo-soul. Although this exquisitely beautiful follow-up (which comes after a 2001 live disc) is subtitled Words and Sounds Vol. 2, it's far from a predictable sequel. This is not the same Jill Scott who took off her earrings and got ready to smack down another sister over a man on "Gettin' in the Way." Perhaps marriage (she wed music producer Lyzel Williams, whom she unforgettably serenaded on "He Loves Me" in 2001) has mellowed the singer-songwriter. It certainly seems to have softened her rough edges into a sexy womanliness; much of Beautifully Human basks in a romantic afterglow. Scott's vocals have gone more from earthy to ethereal, with a Minnie Riperton-like lightness on stunning tracks such as the politically minded "My Petition." Even when on "Cross My Mind" she returns to the spoken-word approach that figured more prominently on Who Is Jill Scott? her delivery is much more sugar than salt. And the hip-hop-inflected beats have been smoothed out with a more classic R&B style that at times harks back to the sumptuous Sound of Philadelphia (Scott's hometown). Miss Jill's lyrics remain both poetic and pointed, and she boasts a fine gift for detail and narrative, telling the cautionary story of a "caramel-complected boy from the 22" whose drug dealing leads to his tragic death on the instant classic "Rasool."

•DOWNLOAD THIS: "Rasool"

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