Jill Scott: Keith Major
September 03, 2004 at 04:00 AM EDT

Jill Scott, Philly soul’s premier vocal stylist, mostly sticks to the jazzy script of her smash debut, 2000’s ”Words and Sounds Vol. 1,” again offering a cohesive collection of slow-burning love grooves and self-empowerment anthems. But Beautifully Human: Words and Sounds Vol. 2 also features more nods to far-flung influences like Sarah Vaughan and Minnie Riperton, showcasing Scott’s nimble fluency in dynamics. She’s as comfortable sighing like a muted horn as she is wailing in big-band fashion — though it’s the infusion of tenderness in her homespun tales that seals the CD’s lasting appeal. Take ”Family Reunion,” a fairly uneventful ’70s R&B loop that ultimately proves itself a quiet charmer thanks to Scott’s detailed family snapshot of rumbling cousins, a drink-happy aunt, delicious green potato salad, and Frankie Beverly blasting from the stereo. With such sumptuous incantations, Scott is less singer-songwriter than sorceress.

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