Wake Up to Layla Zoe’s “Sleep Little Girl”
I was going to start this review by being cutesy. One little paragraph about the flaws in this record. I didn’t like this lyric choice here, and I didn’t like that drum riff, or lack thereof there, and then say, “Okay, that’s it for the bad parts.”
Having listened again, I can’t even do that. My initial trepidation was the fact this CD, Sleep Little Girl, by Layla Zoe, is her voice and a one man band. I had to hear it to believe it. Since she was kind enough to send me one, I have listened.
And changed my mind.
So what about that one man band? His name is Henrik Frieschlader, and he also produced the album. Say what? Well, it turns out that this guy is somewhat the self-taught musician. On his own studio album “Recorded by Martin Meinschäfer” (2009) he plays all instruments – guitars, bass guitar, drums, percussion, and Hammond organ. In addition to this, he composed the songs, wrote the lyrics, produced the record, and released it on his own record label Cable Car Records. So one has to ask, is this a prodigy of sorts, or fake? Well, after listening to “Sleep Little Girl,” this guy is no fake.
The CD opens with a real hard edged song, I’ve Been Down. Henrik really lays it on thick with a fat rhythm guitar and a cutting lead. To get ridiculously technical, it’s an imitative polyphony of four parts: the vocal, two guitars, and the bass. For the rest of us it means the vocal line and instruments follow a descending scale, meaning the lyrics (repeat the title) have heavy emphasis from the instruments. The second song opens with a funky wah guitar part on two tracks. The drum is an excellent offbeat funk chop. Remember, this is one man. He has the slow blues thing down in Black Oil, really hits an excellent psychedelic groove in Hippie Chick, and totally shreds Johnny Winter style in Rock and Roll Guitar Man. The organ? Nope, that’s Moritz Fuhrhop on this CD. Damned easy to be a fan of Henrik! Yes, the guitar is his strength, but he put the qualms about “one man band” to rest. Like, killed it.
That leaves us with the vocals. Layla wrote the lyrics for all these songs, and the melodies. Ignoring comparisons, let’s look at vocal quality. In Singing My Blues on the chorus line, Layla runs an ascending scale that is really cool. In Black Oil her ability to croon seeps out in that first verse, the softness that she has before she begins to wind up. That same quality pops out in the rhythm and soul sounding song, I Hope She Loves You like I Do. Then there’s the title song, Sleep Little Girl. All the electronics are stripped away. It’s just Layla, and a Dobro. It’s an excellent closer to contrast with such a hard edged opener. The softness, her lyric capabilities, and her understanding of what makes a song, shine in this gem.
Most importantly, what you hear in Layla Zoe’s voice is emotional authenticity. Her rawness, gritty, growly voice are in evidence here, to be sure. However, her authenticity in-forms the vocal qualities that make her voice so dynamic. It’s what Cee Cee James would call “whiskey soaked.” Whether she is singing to the Little Girl or Rock and Roll Guitar Man, Layla knows how to say what she wants, and she does it very well.
So if you need to rub the musical sleep out of your eyes, get Layla Zoe’s “Sleep Little Girl.” Two incredibly gifted musicians collaborate to give us a gift of musical sunshine. Put it on, turn it up, and enjoy the day.