Live Event: Yola, Hare & Hounds, Birmingham, May 28th, 2019
Funny how life sometimes works out. You catch a song on the radio but can’t place the singer or the material, it’s a country soul number from the sixties/seventies maybe? So you check the playlist and find that its neither old or American, in fact it’s new and she’s straight outa Bristol. An hour later you have the album downloaded and two weeks later you’re walking down a street in the Kings Heath off to see Yola.
To the uninitiated as was I. West Country born Yola was former lead singer of Phantom Limb, and had previously done backing vocals for numerous artists including Massive Attack and The Chemical Brothers. She recently came to the attention of Black Keys supremo Dan Auerbach who produced and co-wrote with her, enlisting heavyweight Pat McLaughlin and Super Heavyweight Dan Penn.
It was probably the last chance you will get to see her perform in a venue like the Hare and Hounds as she will no doubt be swapping music bars for bona fide Concert Halls pretty soon. However tonight it makes perfect sense as Yola and her 5 piece backing band walk through the packed venue and launch into “Lonely the Night” the song building from piano and pedal steel to a country wall of soul sound, her voice initially subdued before belting out comfort to the heartbroken.
Her presence on stage is easy going and funny but just hinting at darker times. Introducing the taking the leap/going all out for love that is “Walk Through Fire”, she confesses that it’s also part autobiographical as she was once involved in an actual house fire. Survival it seems was a philosophical push she needed.
The set varies between stand out country of “Love all Night” and “Deep Blue Dream”, the folksy “Ride Out in the Country” and “Shady Grove“. “It Ain’t Easier” and a Birds of Chicago cover “Never go Back” drifts into gospel. The full-scale soul of “Rock me Gently” and the storming “Faraway Look” finishes the set and is also the song that got me there in the first place.
We are all in on the joke as the band stands in the corridor before being yelled back on stage and we get three covers: Spanish Harlem Aretha style, and a mash up of Joni’s Big Yellow Taxi and The Letter (owing more to Joe Cocker than the Box Tops original). Although her own songs stand easily alongside these standards.
It’s been a long time since Dusty was in Memphis and perhaps tonight we have found someone who can now cross that particular bridge.
Review by Steve.