TRUE SOUL MUSIC is not something that can be manufactured. Through the haze of dizzying melisma that's being dumped out of the industrial charm factories these days, it's easy to spot a commodity. And there is a reason: "A lot of those pop R&B songs have 10 different writers and five different producers. And it serves a purpose for sure, but those singers can't honestly feel the song they're singing," says Allen Stone, mindful soul singer (and soon-to-be sensation).

Armed in a chunky-knit cardigan and strumming an acoustic guitar ratcheted up to his chin, Stone does not exactly bear the sleek stage presence of Sam Cooke or Raphael Saadiq. When asked about soul music as an image-driven genre, and how it is often brought to attention that he so directly contradicts that mold, the Chewelah, Washington, native is pragmatic. "I get it—it's offsetting for people to see somebody who looks the way I look sound the way I sound," Stone says. "We're visual creatures. But I do think that soul music has the tendency to become all about sex appeal and look 'too pretty.' I don't know anyone who's got their shit so put together that their soul music—ideally, the depths of their soul—should look buttoned up and dashing."

And thus, Stone's music has grit. While much of his self-titled second release sounds clean and tightly wound—with help from well-connected producer Lior Goldenberg, who rounded up Saadiq's rhythm section, Tower of Power's horn arranger, and Miles Davis' keyboardist to play on the record—songs like first single "Unaware" and "What I've Seen" teem with political undertones, while "Satisfaction" deals explicitly with love and its various ailments, until finally collapsing in a flummox of horns and fervid howls from Stone, his near-flawless croon finding more granular tones. Indeed, there is no tiptoeing around with this preacher's son. "I shoot for a song that's intentional about something," says Stone. "It's not going to be, 'I love you girl, let me put you to bed, let me grind you, girl.' That music has its place and I don't wanna knock it, but I feel like our generation needs a bit more nourishment."