This is a truly remarkable album. An epic. It sweeps up stunning arrangements, well-crafted songwriting and masterful session playing, with Yola’s commanding and glorious vocal presence to give us, and I say this with the utmost confidence and prediction, one of the great musical joys of the year. It stands proudly beside some of the classic releases from Aretha Franklin and Dusty Springfield.
Yola’s personal story is fascinating. She has gone from living homeless on the streets of London to joining British band Massive Attack, opening for James Brown (who once told her “Soul’s a thing and you got it!!”) and now to a recording studio in Nashville.
Hailing from a small town outside Bristol in the UK, Yola Carter grew up in poverty with an unsupportive parent who “banned” her from making any music. She also experienced stress-induced voice loss and being literally engulfed in flames in a house fire, which inspired the album’s title.
Yola‘s debut album Walk Through Fire is produced by Dan Auerbach (The Black Keys) and is released February 22 (on Auerbach’s Easy Eye Sound). Dan co-wrote and produced her record with a team of old school session musicians and writers who have worked with the likes of Elvis, John Prine and Aretha Franklin.
These included Pat McLaughlin and the legendary Dan Penn (“Dark End of the Street,” “Cry Like A Baby,” “Do Right Woman, Do Right Man,”), among others, to write together over five days in Auerbach’s Nashville studio.
Having assembled this terrific original material, Auerbach then turned to some of the most iconic session musicians performing today to record the songs. Bassist Dave Rowe (Johnny Cash, Dwight Yoakam, Chrissie Hynde), keyboardist Bobby Wood (Elvis, Wilson Pickett, George Jones), drummer Gene Chrisman (Aretha Franklin, Dusty Springfield, Johnny Bush), steel player Russ Pahl (Don Williams, Leon Russell, Nikki Lane), and guitarist Billy Sanford (Roy Orbison, Waylon Jennings, Tammy Wynette). Guests also joined, including Vince Gill (whose tangled counter vocal is heard on “Keep Me Here”) and bluegrass icons Ronnie McCoury, Molly Tuttle, Stuart Duncan, and Charlie McCoy.
Are you getting the picture? Every component masterfully assembled and the collection from this English lady with a memorable voice starts to sound like a landmark Aretha or Dusty outing.
Auerbach stated: “The moment I met Yola I was impressed. Her spirit fills the room, just like her voice…she has the ability to sing in a full roar or barely a whisper and that is a true gift. She made everyone in the studio an instant believer.”
Yola’s debut album Walk Through Fire is essential.