100 Club, London
29 May 2019
Keith Goldhanger believes Yola has released one of the best albums of 2019. An appearance at the legendary 100 Club in Central London meant he just had to go and have a look.
You may not think you’ve seen or heard Yola Carter (born Yola Quartey) before this year’s fabulous album Walk Through Fire. But if you glance back a decade or so and are gently nudged with the use of a Google search engine (other search engines are also available) you can be easily reminded of those glorious Massive Attack shows (especially the memorable Unfinished Sympathy) that this fabulous singer gave her voice to that echoed around various festivals, the odd appearance with The Chemical Brothers or you may even know Phantom Limb, a band from Bristol that made a couple of albums that a few west country folk would have seen and heard.
Yola, with the help of Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys, has produced one of the most un-punk rock albums of the year this year, and tonight at this sold-out-months-ago gig we get to see the singer in the flesh and more importantly hear her voice as it belts out the tracks we know and love. She introduces each tune with a smile and gives us a short explanation that paints a small picture to illustrate where each song came from. It’s a fabulous intimate occasion and a performance that the 100 Club was built for.
We’ve read a lot of stories about Yola in her younger days. Living a life in poverty with a family that didn’t encourage her to sing or listen to music, growing out of her teens and becoming homeless for a short while (finding a hedge in Hoxton Square apparently) and tonight she tells us the story of when she found herself watching her home catch fire, and how the only way to cope with the situation was to laugh and realise that the event unfolding at the time actually made her quite happy in a strange odd way because she knew this would make her determined to turn this into a positive life changing moment.
These country-soul tunes she performs tonight are all superb well written songs that will grab your attention if you happen to sit and listen to any of these tunes for a couple of minutes. Short songs that remind us of when we first heard The Triffids, a note perfect and a seemingly effortless performance is witnessed as this Bristol lady glides us through the evening with six additional band members playing double bass, peddle steel guitar, keys drums and a couple of guitars.
It’s the voice though that’s the cream on the top of these excellent songs. Standing in a room whilst Yola sings is something we’d recommend for everyone and when this album suddenly appears in an album of the year list amongst all the noisy shouty bands we can all name already, you’ll know who to point at to blame.
Yola will be playing a lot more across the country this year, catch these great songs, the great voice and a great band behind her that play as though they’ve been at this for years (they probably have). The world should listen to and watch this singer especially is you’re one of those that every now and then feel unfortunate that you’re too young to have seen Aretha Franklin, Marvin Gaye, Otis Reading, Dolly Parton, Sandie Shaw or Dusty Springfield in the flesh.
Yola is potentially one of the greats and tonight we saw and heard a high class performance from a high class singer who owns some superb songs that many will shortly fall in love with. One album of a fabulous set of songs worth hearing and, just like every country singer ever, some heartbreaking, moving stories to tell that lead us to where we are now.