Album Review: Yola – Walk Through Fire

Dolly, Aretha, Loretta, Dionne, Tammy, Dusty – the biggest stars in country and soul music are all recognisable by their distinctive first names. The musical spirit of these artists has been channeled into this new album ‘Walk Through Fire’ by rising star Yola, whose similarly unique first name is already familiar to Americana fans in the U.K. With her appealing blend of musical styles and charismatic voice Yola is surely poised to capture the hearts of listeners everywhere in 2019.

First impressions count and Yola just blows you away from the beginning. Faraway Look is a classic soul heartbreaker and already in contention for best of the year, no doubt. Her powerful voice tears the chorus to shreds in the best way – she understands how to take the drama of the song and sell it with stunning effect. Aretha herself would have loved to sing this one, I’m sure.

The songs on this album were mainly written collaboratively and they combine styles in an effortless way. Much has been said of the country influence in the music and with the album being recorded in Nashville you can expect to hear fiddle, steel and even a little twang on some songs like It Ain’t Easier and Love All Night (Work All Day). But to say this is a country album is not strictly true – songs like Shady Grove and Deep Blue Dream are a fusion of vintage sounding elements, feeling both fresh and familiar at the same time.

On Ride Out in The Country, Yola seeks escape and a chance to start again. For an artist who has been working hard in the music industry for a long time she grabs this moment and sings the hell out of it. The songwriting here is fantastic – you can almost feel the wind in your hair, hear the rustling of the trees as you listen.

Maybe to become a success you have to take risks and even Walk Through Fire to find your own style and voice. Yola sounds like she born to sing these songs, even if she’s suffered some pain and loss to get here. Lonely The Night is a real showstopper of a song, celebrating those who live through dark nights alone. Love may have deserted and hurt her but at least she can just sing it out. Despite the fact most of these songs deal with breakups, loneliness and difficult memories we finish on an optimistic note with a song called ‘Love is Light’. The end of her blues is in sight. It’s a hopeful conclusion to an ultimately uplifting collection of songs.

So yes I’m in love with a songbird, and her name is Yola. Walk Through Fire to get this glorious album – it is hot, hot, hot.


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