Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

From Way out West, a Gorgeous Country Debut; ALBUMS OF THE WEEK

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

From Way out West, a Gorgeous Country Debut; ALBUMS OF THE WEEK

Article excerpt

POP Yola Walk Through Fire (Nonesuch) BACK in 2016, at a country music festival in Nashville, Yola Carter put in the sort of star-making performance that Hollywood movies turn on. Who was this hell-and-back country-soul maven? Where did she come from? Portishead, near Bristol, as it turns out, where her childhood was marked by poverty, abuse and the house fire that gives her debut its title. Under her birth name Yola Quartey she spent more than a decade writing songs, making electronica, and messing around with Massive Attack before returning to early touchstones: Stax soul, Appalachian ballads, The Byrds' Sweethearts of the Rodeo. Now she's determined to prove "country-soul" is a thing and she's the one to sing it.

"People say, 'What's your connection with American roots music?'" she has said. "I'm like, 'My actual roots. How about that, kids? How about my actual, real actual roots?'" Fair dos.

It's a gorgeous album, surely destined to become a fixture of daytime radio and bleary commutes. Producer Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys has assembled a crack team of musicians: pedal steels swell, gospel choirs holler, fiddles scrape, orchestras chime, Wurlitzers whirl. But it's testament to Yola's weather system of a voice that it all coheres.

There are songs to scrape you through dark mornings and breeze you through blue afternoons. "I work every day/Thinking of the ways/To make you smile," she coos on It Ain't Easier. But it's on more otherworldly numbers like Rock Me Gently that it's clear she's is coming from a place of pain: "Rock me til I'm fast asleep/Take away these memories." It's a moment of chilling grace -- and there are many more on this outstanding debut.

Richard Godwin POP Julia Jacklin Crushing (Transgressive) ANYONE not enamoured of a certain kind of awkward indie songwriter should probably look away now. …

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