REVIEW: Soak Up the Soul Sounds on Yola’s Debut Album ‘Walk through Fire’


Yola is an artist who has come a long way from her childhood outside Bristol, England. As a child she was forbidden to make music and at some point she ended up homeless. To say she overcame those things is an understatement. From there she performed on some hits and joined Massive Attack for a brief spell. Now she is releasing her debut solo album Walk through Fire, produced by Dan Auerbach.

You get the first taste of the power of Yola’s voice in the opening track “Faraway Look.” She sings the fist couple verses with a fairly subdued but soulful voice. Then without straining she belts out the chorus with a voice that can best be described as big. And that’s through headphones. You can only imagine how easily she fills a room with her voice when she performs live.

If you’re a fan of songs about escaping on a road trip, “Ride out in the Country” is a song you’ll probably enjoy. Yola sings about going for a ride out in the country to forget about someone with whom she has fallen out of love. The guitar provides a country sound while Yola delivers the soul with her vocals. The melody is akin to Scene of the Crime, the album Bettye Lavette recorded with Drive-By Truckers.

The title track is a slower tempo song, but it was made for couples to dance on a scuffed hardwood floor in some dark bar. The bass line by Dave Roe isn’t uptempo, but it’s good enough to get people dancing. Throw in some fiddle from Stuart Duncan. twangy guitar, and even a little rub board (to give it a touch of New Orleans flavor) and what you have is the perfect song for the middle of a barn dance when the band wants a bit of a breather.

“Love Is Light” opens with Yola’s vocals and acoustic guitar. When the song reaches the chorus, the pedal steel of Russ Pahl and the horns of Roy Agee play a prominent part. By the second chorus, the layers of sound seem to build on each other to the point that you might get chills.

This album brings together the best of both country and soul. There are some real honky-tonk slow-dancing songs like “It Ain’t Easier,” while Yola brings the soul to every song with her vocals. Walk through Fire (Easy Eye Sound) will be available everywhere on February 22. Order your copy here.

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