Yola - Stand For Myself
When two friends from very different circles simultaneously recommend the same artist, that's usually a good sign. Yola is one of those artists - back in 2019, my friend Simon who works in the music industry and is a full on music geek raved about her. Another friend Gill who also loves music (but is less obsessive about it than Simon and me) also raved about her. A very good sign - this isn't just musical geek territory.
It turns out I already knew her - she was the lead singer in Phantom Limb, a country and soul band from Bristol. I loved them, and had included Don't Say A Word in my Xmas CD from 2012. But they had sadly disappeared, another band that didn't quite make it, wrong time, wrong place.
Since Phantom Limb ended, she has sung with various DJs, until 2019, when she released her debut album, Walk Through Fire, produced by Dan Auerbach from The Black Keys. It was a good start, a solid album. But Stand For Myself is a leap forward.
This is a hugely confident, assured record. It sounds like Nashville must be twinned with Bristol, which is no mean feat. Again it's produced by Auerbach and and features the marvellous Aaron Frazer on drums.
Barely Alive is country soul, recalling the poverty of her upbringing ("When will you start living, now that you’ve survived"). It quickly moves to disco with Dancing Away In Tears, bolstered with its sumptuous bursts of brass.
Whatever You Want is pure Rolling Stones, all soul swagger, while Like A Photograph channels Dusty Springfield. But she's more than her influences. Diamond Studded Shoes calls out the political hypocrisy of the current government - “promises are never gonna be enough". Meanwhile, Great Divide is full on soul and Now You’re Here is allows her voice to shine.
But its standout moment is its title track and closing number, Stand For Myself. It's huge, making classics like Moving On Up by Primal Scream looked restrained and quiet. It's the best song I have heard this year and it's been a great year so far.
Check her out, Simon and Gill are not wrong!
For fans of: Phantom Limb, Valerie June, Allison Russell