British singer finds success with latest CD





Britain’s Amy Winehouse plays a pair of sold-out shows at the Mod Club this weekend.


Opening an album with a track about your refusal to go to rehab is gutsy, direct and oddly witty. Thus is the U.K.’s Amy Winehouse, a 23-year-old soul singer/songwriter of the rarest kind — think Aretha’s pipes meet Lauryn Hill’s sass.

Already, the tattoo-laden, big-haired, heavily made-up Winehouse has enjoyed tremendous success — her second album, 2006’s Back To Black, reached No. 1 on the U.K. charts, No. 7 in the U.S. and last February she won a BRIT Award for Best British Female Artist. (In addition, her debut, 2003’s Frank, went platinum).

Musically, Winehouse mixes elements of jazz, pop, R&B and, most recently, doo-wap and even gospel-tinged stylings. In fact, Back To Black — which she will be promoting at two sold-out shows at Toronto’s Mod Club this weekend — was hugely inspired by girl groups of the ’50s and ’60s.

The Supremes-induced title track is an almost haunting tale of loss and depression: “I died a hundred times. You go back to her and I go back to black.” Meanwhile, the aforementioned Rehab, the album’s first single, reflects the also upbeat mood of the album with rhythmic bass, piano, chimes and saxophone: “They tried to make me go to rehab, I said ‘no, no, no.’”

“I can’t write a song … if I haven’t been there,” said Winehouse in a recent telephone interview with Metro. “Often, songs write themselves — if you feel strongly and passionate about what you’re doing.”

Confessional, fearless, diary-esque, call it what you will, Winehouse’s writing is both mature and classic — sounding at times as a peer among the soul and jazz greats she admires — rather than a novice.

“I try to make something good out of something bad,” explained Winehouse, who bears the name of her recent fiancé, Blake Fielder-Civil, in a tattoo above her left breast.

Consider her amusing berating of a (boy)friend? on the funky Me & Mr. Jones where he fails to get her tickets to a gig. “What kind of fuckery is this? You made me miss the Slick Rick gig … Can’t believe you played me out like that.”

For anyone wondering: “If you order a tuna salad sandwich and they bring you chicken salad, that’s fuckery.”