There is a vast distance between living on the street in Bristol to making it big in Nashville. Nevertheless, that’s the impressive move that Yola – full name Yola Quartey – has made over the past couple of years.
If there’s one thing you notice, and fall in love with, instantly, it’s her voice! The way it fills her two records, 2019’s Walk Through Fire and 2021’s Stand for Myself – a buffet of country-soul and break-up songs, backed with fiddle, mandolin, Wurlitzer, and produced by Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys.
It isn’t just the big, blunt end of Yola’s powerhouse voice that impresses. Its real magic lies in its depths of emotion and experience, and a dynamic range that can move from comforting whisper to full-on war cry within the space of a couple of lines.
2020 was a wild ride for Yola. She was nominated for no less than four Grammys, she’d been cast as the rock pioneer Sister Rosetta Tharpe in Baz Luhrmann’s forthcoming biopic Elvis. She had also landed a support job on country rocker Chris Stapleton’s forthcoming tour. Then the pandemic struck!
It gave Yola time and space to make the album Stand for Myself (again with Dan Auerbach as producer), which has been received with loads of star-studded reviews (look here).
Straddling vintage country, orchestral pop and classic soul, Yola expresses an affinity for retro sounds while managing to remain free of cloying imitation or forced pastiche. She has been compared to the likes of Dusty Springfield and Sandie Shaw.
Scroll through Youtube (for instance, look here, here and here) and you’ll quickly find that Yola is just an amazing singer live as she is on record. Her melodic, resonant singing is so sweeping in scope it can bear hug everything within reach. Her sweet tunes are delivered by an exceptional backing band – so expect a concert full of great emotions when Yola performs at Roskilde Festival.