Tag: Nashville TN

Live Footage: JOVM Mainstay Yola Performs “Stand For Myself” on “Late Show with Stephen Colbert”

With the release of 2019’s Walk Through Fire, her critically applauded Dan Auerbach-produced full-length debut, the the Bristol, UK-born, Nashville-based singer/songwriter, guitarist and JOVM mainstay Yola had a breakthrough year, which included:

making her New York debut at Rockwood Music Hall
playing a buzz-worthy, breakout performance at that year’s SXSW
opening for a list of acclaimed artists including Kacey Musgraves, Lake Street Dive and Andrew Bird on a select series of US tour dates that featured stops at Newport Folk Festival, Hollywood Bowl, Austin City Limits Festival, and Lincoln Center Out of Doors
playing a YouTube session at YouTube Space New York
making her nationally televised debut on CBS This Morning: Saturday Sessions
receiving a Grammy nomination for Best Artist, along with fellow JOVM mainstays The Black Pumas
making her late night national television debut on Jimmy Kimmel Live! 
releasing a soulful cover of Elton John‘s “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, ”that not only quickly became a staple of her live sets — but caught the attention of Sir Elton John, who praised her and her cover

year, the JOVM mainstay had a massive year ahead of her. Early in the year, it was announced that she was cast to play gospel, blues and rock ‘n’ roll pioneer Sister Rosetta Tharpe in Baz Luhrmann’s musical drama Elvis alongside Austin Butler in the title role, Tom Hanks as Colonel Tom Parker and Maggie Gyllenhaal as Presley’s mother. Much like everyone else, the pandemic threw an enormous monkey wrench in her plans: Tom Hanks wound contracting COVID-19 while filming in Australia. Pandemic-related lockdowns, quarantines and restrictions added further delays to the filming schedule.

or country superstar Chris Stapleton (at Madison Square Garden!) and for Grammy Award-winning acts  The Black Keys and Brandi Carlile. Those dates were eventually postponed with some dates rescheduled for later this year. (As always, tour dates will be below.)

Luckily, the Bristol-born, Nashville-based JOVM mainstay was able to finish her first Stateside headlining tour, a tour that included a Music Hall of Williamsburg a few weeks before the pandemic wrecked havoc across the globe. With the pandemic putting everything on pause, Yola managed to remain busy: She made virtual stops across the domestic, late night television circuit, which included playing album bonus track “I Don’t Want to Lie” on The Late Late Show with James Corden and a gospel-tinged cover Nina Simone‘s classic and beloved “To Be Young, Gifted and Black” filmed at The Ryman Auditorium for Late Night with Seth Meyers.

With the unexpected gift of time and space, Yola founded herself physically and mentally as she began to write the material that would eventually become her soon-to-be released sophomore album Stand For Myself. Interestingly, some of the album’s material was written several years perviously and was inspired by some deeply personal moments, like her mother’s funeral. Other songs were written during pandemic quarantine and isolation, and as a result, they reflect on personal and collective moments of longing and awakening, inspired and informed by Black Lives Matter and other social justice movements. Album tracks were cowritten with an incredibly diverse array of collaborators including Ruby Amanfu, John Bettis, Pat McLaughlin, Natalie Hemby, Joy Oladokun, Paul Overstreet, Liz Rose, Aaron Lee Tasjan, Hannah Vasanth and Bobby Wood.

Thematically, Stand For Myself’s material will make a connection with anyone who has ever experienced the feeling as though they were an “other,” while urging the listener to challenge the biases and assumptions that fuel bigotry, inequality and tokenism — all of which have impacted Yola’s personal life and career in some way or another.

thinking and paradigm shift at their core.” Yola says in press note, adding, “It is an album not blindly positive and it does not simply plead for everyone to come together. It instead explores ways that we need to stand for ourselves throughout our lives, what limits our connection as humans and declares that real change will come when we challenge our thinking and acknowledge our true complexity.” Ultimately, the JOVM mainstay’s hope is that the album will encourage both empathy and self actualization, all while returning to where she started, to the real Yola. “I kind of got talked out of being me, and now I’m here. This is who I’ve always been in music and in life. There was a little hiatus where I got brainwashed out of my own majesty, but a bitch is back.”

ngside Aaron Frazier (drums), a rising solo artist in his own right, the album is sonically is a noticeable shift from her debut, inspired by the seminal albums she discovered through her mother’s record collection, as well as the eclectic mixtapes featuring neo-soul, R&B, Brit Pop and others that she created as a young person listening to British radio. Aesthetically, the album frequently is a mesh of symphonic soul and classic pop that occasionally hints at the country soul of her breakthrough debut.

For Myself” is a bold feminist anthem written from the perspective of a survivor, who boldly asserts her desire to thrive and to be wholly herself — in her own terms and at all costs. While reflecting on the JOVM mainstay’s belief in the possibility of paradigm shift beyond the noxious mental programming that creates tokenism and bigotry, the song is centered around a rousingly anthemic, shout-along worthy chorus, Yola’s soulful, powerhouse vocals paired with a clean, modern Nashville meets symphonic pop sound.

“The song’s protagonist ‘token,’ has been shrinking themselves to fit into the narrative of another’s making, but it becomes clear that shrinking is pointless,” Yola explains. She adds “This song is about a celebration of being awake from the nightmare supremacist paradigm. Truly alive, awake and eyes finally wide open and trained on your path to self actualisation. You are thinking freely and working on undoing the mental programming that has made you live in fear. It is about standing for ourselves throughout our lives and real change coming when we challenge our thinking. This is who I’ve always been in music and in life.”

Last night, the JOVM mainstay performed a subtly stripped down version of “Stand For Myself” accompanied by a guest spot from Jon Batiste that managed to retain the song’s anthemic nature and powerfully necessary message.

New Video: JOVM Mainstay Yola Releases a Gorgeous and Tender Visual for Smoldering New Single “Starlight”

With the release of her critically applauded, Dan Auerbach-produced full-length debut, 2019’s Walk Through Fire, the Bristol, UK-born, Nashville-based singer/songwriter, guitarist and JOVM mainstay Yola had a breakthrough year that year with a series of career-defining highlights including:

making her New York debut at Rockwood Music Hall
playing a buzz-worthy, breakout performance at that year’s SXSW
opening for a list of acclaimed artists including Kacey Musgraves, Lake Street Dive and Andrew Bird on a select series of US tour dates that featured stops at Newport Folk Festival, Hollywood Bowl, Austin City Limits Festival, and Lincoln Center Out of Doors
playing a YouTube session at YouTube Space New York
making her nationally televised debut on CBS This Morning: Saturday Sessions
receiving a Grammy nomination for Best Artist, along with fellow JOVM mainstays The Black Pumas
making her late night national television debut on Jimmy Kimmel Live! 
releasing a soulful cover of Elton John‘s “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road,”that not only quickly became a staple of her live sets — but caught the attention of Sir Elton John, who praised her and her cover

Last year, the Bristol-born, Nashville-based JOVM mainstay had hopes to build upon 2019’s momentum with a handful of opportunities that came her way last year that many artists across the world would kill for: Early last year, it was announced that she was casted as blues and rock ‘n’ roll pioneer Sister Rosetta Tharpe in Baz Luhrmann’s musical drama Elvis alongside Austin Butler in the title role, Tom Hanks as Colonel Tom Parker and Maggie Gyllenhaal as Presley’s mother. Unfortunately, much like with everyone else,the COVID-19 pandemic threw a series of monkey wrenches into her hopes and plans: Tom Hanks wound up contracting COVID-19 while filming in Australia and because of pandemic-related lockdowns and restrictions, filming was delayed. During breaks in the Elvis filming schedule, she was supposed to play a series of dates opening for country superstar Chris Stapleton and Grammy Award-winning acts  The Black Keys and Brandi Carlile — with one of those shows being at Madison Square Garden, which also got postponed until later on this year. (More on that below.) 

cluded a stop at Music Hall of Williamsburg, a few weeks before the world went into lockdown.  In lieu of actual touring, the Bristol-born, Nashville-based JOVM mainstay wound up making a virtual tour of the domestic, late night television show circuit that saw her playing bonus track “I Don’t Want to Lie” on The Late Late Show with James Corden — and gospel-tleaning cover of Nina Simone‘s classic and beloved “To Be Young, Gifted and Black” filmed at The Ryman Auditorium for Late Night with Seth Meyers. 

But besides that, much like the rest of us Yola had a lot of time on her hands. The Bristol-born, Nashville-based JOVM mainstay used the unexpected gift of time and space to ground herself physically and mentally as she began to write the material that would become her highly-anticipated sophomore album Stand For Myself. Some of the album’s material was written several years previously and inspired by deeply personal moments, like her mother’s funeral. Other songs were written during pandemic isolation, and as a result they reflect on her personal and collective moments of longing and awakening — inspired and informed by Black Lives Matter, #MeToo and other movements. 

Tracks were also cowritten with Ruby Amanfu, John Bettis, Pat McLaughlin, Natalie Hemby, Joy Oladokun, Paul Overstreet, Liz Rose, Aaron Lee Tasjan, Hannah Vasanth and Bobby Wood. But importantly, the album’s material will make a connection with anyone who has experienced feeling as though they were an “other” while urging the listener to challenge the biases and assumptions that fuel bigotry, inequality and tokenism — all of which have impacted her personal life and career. “It’s a collection of stories of allyship, black feminine strength through vulnerability, and loving connection from the sexual to the social. All celebrating a change in thinking and paradigm shift at their core.” Yola says in press note, adding, “It is an album not blindly positive and it does not simply plead for everyone to come together. It instead explores ways that we need to stand for ourselves throughout our lives, what limits our connection as humans and declares that real change will come when we challenge our thinking and acknowledge our true complexity.” Ultimately, the JOVM mainstay’s hope is that the album will encourage both empathy and self actualization, all while returning to where she started, to the real Yola. “I kind of got talked out of being me, and now I’m here. This is who I’ve always been in music and in life. There was a little hiatus where I got brainwashed out of my own majesty, but a bitch is back.”

usician and label head Dan Auerbach, the album which was recorded late last year at Easy Eye Sound is inspired by the seminal albums she initially discovered through her mother’s record collection, as well as the eclectic mixtapes she created while listening to British radio that featured neo soul, R&B, Brit Pop and others. Featuring a backing band that includes Nick Movshon (bass), best known for his work with Amy Winehouse and Bruno Mars alongside Aaron Frazier (drums), a rising solo artist in his own right, the album is sonically is a noticeable shift from her debut, with the album’s aesthetic meshing symphonic soul and classic pop while occasionally hinting at the country soul of her critically applauded debut. 

In the buildup to the album’s July 30, 2021 release through Easy Eye Sound, I’ve written about two of Stand For Myself’s singles:

“Diamond Studded Shoes,” a woozy yet seamless synthesis of densely layered Phil Spector-like Wall of Sound pop, country, 70s singer/songwriter pop and late 60s/early 70s Motown soul centered around the JOVM mainstay’s powerhouse vocals and some of the most incisive sociopolitical commentary of her growing catalog. “This song explores the false divides created to distract us from those few who are in charge of the majority of the world’s wealth and use the ‘divide and conquer’ tactic to keep it,” Yola explained in press notes. “This song calls on us to unite and turn our focus to those with a stranglehold on humanity.”
“Stand For Myself,” a bold and proudly feminist anthem written from the perspective of a survivor, who wants to do more than just survive; she wants to thrive and be wholly herself — at all costs. While featuring a rousing, shout-along worthy hook. a clean pop-leaning take on the famous Nashville sound and a the JOVM mainstay’s powerhouse vocals, the song, much like its immediate predecessor is undermined by incisive social commentary: Essentially, the track reflects on Yola’s belief in the possibility of paradigm shift beyond the mental programming that creates both tokenism and bigotry. “The song’s protagonist ‘token,’ has been shrinking themselves to fit into the narrative of another’s making, but it becomes clear that shrinking is pointless,” Yola explains. “This song is about a celebration of being awake from the nightmare supremacist paradigm. Truly alive, awake and eyes finally wide open and trained on your path to self actualisation. You are thinking freely and working on undoing the mental programming that has made you live in fear. It is about standing for ourselves throughout our lives and real change coming when we challenge our thinking. This is who I’ve always been in music and in life.”

“Starlight,” Stand For Myself’s third and latest single is a sultry and lush, Quiet Storm-inspired song featuring twinkling keys, a sinuous bass line, a soaring hook, strummed guitar, shuffling rhythms paired with Yola’s vocals expressing vulnerability and longing for human connection and touch. Certainly, if you’ve been single over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, this song will resonate in a much deeper and intimate way.

“‘Starlight’ is a song about looking for positive physical, sexual and human connections at every level of your journey towards love,” Yola explains. She adds:
 “The world seems to attach a negative trope of cold heartlessness to the concept of any sexual connection that isn’t marriage, this song looks through a lens of warmth specifically when it comes to sex positivity. Understanding the necessity of every stage of connection and that it is possible for every stage of your journey in love, sex and connection to be nurturing. Temporary or transitory doesn’t have to be meaningless or miserable. In the right situations every connection can teach us something valuable about who we are, what we want and what is healthy.”

by Ford Farichild, the recently released video for “Starlight” is set in a late-night and noir-ish neon cityscape. We follow our protagonist — Yola — walking through the streets full of longing and desire, until she meets her equally beautiful object of desire in a wonderful moment of tenderness and connection. It’s simple yet very beautiful and completely human moment. “I wanted to put something into the world that showed people what my dating life is like now,” Yola says of the video. “I’m currently single, yes, but I’m not neglected or some soulless sex robot. The volume of media dedicated to showing dark skinned Black women having a nice normal time in romantic situations, be it true love or just dating, is still lacking in my opinion.”

New Video: JOVM Mainstay Yola Releases a Rousing, Feminist Anthem

With the release of her critically applauded, Dan Auerbach-produced full-length debut, 2019’s Walk Through Fire, the Bristol, UK-born, Nashville-based singer/songwriter, guitarist and JOVM mainstay Yola had a breakthrough year with a series of career-defining highlights including:

making her New York debut at Rockwood Music Hall
playing a buzz-worthy, breakout performance at that year’s SXSW
opening for a list of acclaimed artists including Kacey Musgraves, Lake Street Dive and Andrew Bird on a select series of US tour dates that featured stops at Newport Folk Festival, Hollywood Bowl, Austin City Limits Festival, and Lincoln Center Out of Doors
playing a YouTube session at YouTube Space New York
making her nationally televised debut on CBS This Morning: Saturday Sessions
receiving a Grammy nomination for Best Artist, along with fellow JOVM mainstays The Black Pumas
making her late night national television debut on Jimmy Kimmel Live! 
releasing a soulful cover of Elton John‘s “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road,”that not only quickly became a staple of her live sets — but caught the attention of Sir Elton John, who praised her and her cover

Last year, the JOVM mainstay had hopes to build upon the momentum of the previous year with a handful of opportunities that came her way that many artists across the world would kill for: Early in the year, it was announced that she was going to play blues and rock ‘n’ roll pioneer Sister Rosetta Tharpe in Baz Luhrmann’s musical drama Elvis alongside Austin Butler in the title role, Tom Hanks as Colonel Tom Parker and Maggie Gyllenhaal as Presley’s mother. Unfortunately, much like with everyone else,the COVID-19 pandemic threw a series of monkey wrenches into her hopes and plans: Tom Hanks wound up contracting COVID-19 while filming in Australia and because of pandemic-related lockdowns and restrictions, filming was delayed. During breaks in the filming schedule, she was supposed to open for a handful of dates for country superstar Chris Stapleton and Grammy Award-winning acts  The Black Keys and Brandi Carlile — with one of those shows being at Madison Square Garden, which also got postponed until later on this year. (More on that below.)

However, Yola was able to finish her first Stateside headlining tour, a tour that included a stop at Music Hall of Williamsburg, a few weeks before the world went into lockdown.  In lieu of touring, the Bristol-born, Nashville-based artist wound up making virtual stops across the domestic, late night television show circuit: She played album bonus track “I Don’t Want to Lie” on The Late Late Show with James Corden — and she played a gospel-tinged cover of Nina Simone‘s classic and beloved “To Be Young, Gifted and Black” filmed at The Ryman Auditorium for Late Night with Seth Meyers. 

The Bristol-born, Nashville-based JOVM mainstay used the unexpected gift of time and space to ground herself physically and mentally as she began to write the material that would eventually become her highly-anticipated sophomore album Stand For Myself. Some of the album’s material was written several years previously and inspired by deeply personal moments, like her mother’s funeral. Other songs were written during pandemic isolation, and as a result they reflect on her personal and collective moments of longing and awakening — inspired and informed by Black Lives Matter and other movements.

Tracks were also cowritten with Ruby Amanfu, John Bettis, Pat McLaughlin, Natalie Hemby, Joy Oladokun, Paul Overstreet, Liz Rose, Aaron Lee Tasjan, Hannah Vasanth and Bobby Wood. But importantly, the album’s material will most likely make a connection with anyone who has experienced feeling as though they were an “other” while urging the listener to challenge the biases and assumptions that fuel bigotry, inequality and tokenism — all of which have impacted her personal life and career.

“It’s a collection of stories of allyship, black feminine strength through vulnerability, and loving connection from the sexual to the social. All celebrating a change in thinking and paradigm shift at their core.” Yola says in press note, adding, “It is an album not blindly positive and it does not simply plead for everyone to come together. It instead explores ways that we need to stand for ourselves throughout our lives, what limits our connection as humans and declares that real change will come when we challenge our thinking and acknowledge our true complexity.” Ultimately, the JOVM mainstay’s hope is that the album will encourage both empathy and self actualization, all while returning to where she started, to the real Yola. “I kind of got talked out of being me, and now I’m here. This is who I’ve always been in music and in life. There was a little hiatus where I got brainwashed out of my own majesty, but a bitch is back.”

Continuing her ongoing collaboration with acclaimed producer, singer/songwriter, musician and label head Dan Auerbach, the album which was recorded late last year at Easy Eye Sound is inspired by the seminal albums she initially discovered through her mother’s record collection, as well as the eclectic mixtapes she created while listening to British radio that featured neo soul, R&B, Brit Pop and others. Featuring a backing band that includes Nick Movshon (bass), best known for his work with Amy Winehouse and Bruno Mars alongside Aaron Frazier (drums), a rising solo artist in his own right, the album is sonically is a noticeable shift from her debut, with the album’s aesthetic meshing symphonic soul and classic pop while occasionally hinting at the country soul of her critically applauded debut.

Earlier this year, I wrote about Stand For Myself’s first single, “Diamond Studded Shoes,” a woozy yet seamless synthesis of densely layered Phil Spector-like Wall of Sound pop, country, 70s singer/songwriter pop and late 60s/early 70s Motown soul centered around the JOVM mainstay’s powerhouse vocals and some of the most incisive sociopolitical commentary of her growing catalog. “This song explores the false divides created to distract us from those few who are in charge of the majority of the world’s wealth and use the ‘divide and conquer’ tactic to keep it,” Yola explained in press notes. “This song calls on us to unite and turn our focus to those with a stranglehold on humanity.”

Interestingly, Stand For Myself’s second and latest single is the album title track “Stand For Myself.” Centered around a rousing, shout-along worthy hook, Yola’s powerhouse vocals and a clean, pop-leaning take on the Nashville sound, the song was cowritten by Yola, Dan Auerbach and Hannah Vasanth — and features The McCrary Sisters contributing backing vocals. The track manages to be a bold and proudly feminist anthem written from the perspective of a survivor, who wants to thrive and be wholly herself — at all costs. And yet much like its immediate predecessor, there’s incisive social commentary underpinning the whole affair: Essentially, the track reflects on the JOVM mainstays’ belief in the possibility of paradigm shift beyond the mental programming that creates both tokenism and bigotry.  “The song’s protagonist ‘token,’ has been shrinking themselves to fit into the narrative of another’s making, but it becomes clear that shrinking is pointless,” Yola explains. She adds “This song is about a celebration of being awake from the nightmare supremacist paradigm. Truly alive, awake and eyes finally wide open and trained on your path to self actualisation. You are thinking freely and working on undoing the mental programming that has made you live in fear. It is about standing for ourselves throughout our lives and real change coming when we challenge our thinking. This is who I’ve always been in music and in life.”

Directed by Allister Ann, the recently released video visually is indebted to Missy Elliott’s classic videos of the ’90s and ’00s but with strobe lights and a motorcycle to symbolize, the JOVM mainstay’s escape — and freedom — from those forces that have been oppressing her. And most importantly, depicting a much more nuanced definition of Black female strength — a strength thats balanced with vulnerability. r”My school years were during the 90s and 00s, and Missy Elliott’s videos were always aesthetically superior to me,” Yola says of the video. “I feel that the video is set in the antechamber to freedom. The feeling of escaping something truly oppressive and heading towards an unknown with a sense of hope and choice you haven’t felt in a long time. We all have the capacity to go through this process in our own minds, I kinda look like a superhero at times, but I’m not. I’m just a person trying to be free.”

New Video: Robert Finley Releases a Swampy Boogie Blues

Robert Finley is a 67 year-old Winnsboro, LA-born, Bernice, LA-based singer/songwriter, who was one of eight children in a family of sharecroppers. As a child, a young Finley was unable to regular attend school and often worked with his family in the cotton fields. When he was a teenager, he briefly attended a segregated school; but he dropped out in the 10th grade to help the family out financially.

As an adult, Finley has lived a full, complicated and often messy life: he’s an army veteran and a skilled carpenter, who has survived house fires, a bad auto accident and a divorce. Sadly, the Winnsboro-born, Bernice-based singer/songwriter lost his sight in his 60s as a result of glaucoma,.and although he was forced to retire from being a carpenter, Finley realized that he had an opportunity to pursue a lifelong dream — becoming a musician and singer. Finley believes that his sight was improved by the power of prayer — and that his faith has also helped him focus on launching a music career in his 60s. According to Finley “losing my sight, gave me the perspective to see my true identity.”

Finley’s rise has been rapid: As the story goes, Dan Auerbach immediately saw Finley’s potential, quickly proclaiming that the Louisiana-born and-based artist is “the greatest living soul singer.” As Auerbach recalls in press notes, “He walked in like he was straight out of the swamp.” He adds, “He had leather pants, snakeskin boots, a big Country & Western belt buckle, a leather cowboy hat and a three-quarter-length leather duster. The final touch was the folding cane the legally blind Finley wore on his hip, in a holster. Basically, he was dressed for national television.” 

Auerbach went on to produce Finley’s 2017 breakthrough sophomore album Goin’ Platinum, an album released to widespread critical acclaim from the likes of the Associated Press, who praised Finley’s ability to lend “instant credibility to any song” and The Observer, who wrote “Finley’s versatile voice ranges from prime Motown holler to heartbroken falsetto croon.” The Louisiana-born and-based singer/songwriter went on to support the album with international touring across 10 countries — with his live show drawing praise from a number of publications, including The New York Times and several others. Finley was also profiled on PBS NewsHour, which led him to becoming a contestant on the 2019 season of America’s Got Talent, eventually reaching the semi-finals. 

Finley’s third album Sharecropper’s Son was released last week through Easy Eye Sound. The album continues the Louisiana-born and-based singer/songwriter’s successful collaboration with Auerbach and features songwriting and cowrites from Finley, Auerbach, Bobby Wood and Pat McLaughlin. And much like other Easy Eye Sound releases, the album features an All-Star backing band that includes Auerbach (guitar);Kenny Brown (guitar), a member of R.L Burnside‘s backing band; studio legends Russ Pahl (pedal steel) and Louisiana-born, Nashville-based Billy Sanford (guitar); Bobby Wood (keys and as previously mentioned songwriting); Gene Chrisman (drums), who’s a Memphis and Nashville music legend; as well as contributions The Dap Kings‘ Nick Movshon (bass), Eric Deaton (guitar); Dave Roe (bass), who was member of Johnny Cash‘s backing band; Sam Bacco (percussion) and a full horn section. 

Sharecropper’s Son may arguably be the most personal album of Finley’s growing catalog, drawing directly from his life and experience. “I was ready to tell my story, and Dan and his guys knew me so well by then that they knew it almost like I do, so they had my back all the way,” Finley says in press notes. “Working in the cotton fields wasn’t a pleasant place to be, but it was part of my life. I went from the cotton fields to Beverly Hills. We stayed in the neighborhood most of our childhood. It wasn’t really all that safe to be out by yourself. One of the things I love about music is that, when I was a boy growing up in the South, nobody wanted to hear what I had to say or what I thought about anything. But when I started putting it in songs, people listened.”

In the buildup to the album’s release, I wrote about two of the album’s released singles:

“Country Boy,” a swampy and funky bit of country soul featured a tight, strutting groove, bluesy guitar lines, shimmering organ and Finley’s soulful and creaky falsetto paired with autobiographic lyrics, which were improvised on the spot with the tape rolling. “When we play live, I always leave room in the show for lyrics I make up on the spot while the band hits a groove,” Finley explains. “I guess the younger generation calls it free-styling, but for me, it’s just speaking from my mind, straight from my soul.” While lyrically, the song touches upon classic blues fare — heartbreak, loneliness, being broke, being a stranger far away from home and the like, the song is fueled by Finley’s sincerity. He has lived through those experiences, and you can tell that from the vulnerable cracks in his weathered croon.
Album title track “Sharecropper’s Son,” a strutting blues holler featuring James Cotton-like blasts of harmonica, shimmering Rhodes, a chugging groove, a classic blues solo, and Finley’s creaky and soulful crooning and shouts. And much like its predecessor, the song is fueled by both the lived-in experiences of its writer and the novelistic details within the song: you can feel the hot sun on Finley’s and his siblings’ skin, the sore muscles of backbreaking and unending labor in the fields. But throughout the song, its narrator expresses pride in his family doing whatever they could do legally to survive and keep food on the table. 

“Make Me Feel Alright,” Sharecropper’s Son’s latest single is a swampy boogie that’s one part John Lee Hooker barroom blues, one part Mississippi Delta Blues centered around a twangy blues guitar line, a shuffling rhythm and Finley’s expressive crooning. While being the sort of song you want your bartender to play loudly on a Friday or Saturday night, as you try to spit some game to some pretty young thing, the song as Finley explains in press notes “is about not looking for love, but for companionship. Sometimes you want to find someone to have a good time, You meet someone, have a fun night and then go on your separate ways with your own problems at the end of the night but still experience love in the moment.”

Directed by frequent visual collaborator Tim Hardman, the recently released video follows Finley as he tries to get a woman to spend a little time with him. While on his property, the video reveals Finley as a fun old guy looking for a little bit of fun — because life is short after

New Video: Robert Finley Releases a Soulful and Bluesy Holler

67 year-old, Winnsboro, LA-born, Bernice, LA-based singer/songwriter Robert Finley was born into a family of sharecroppers, and was one of eight children. As a child, a young Finley was unable to regularly attend school and often worked with his family in the cotton fields. When he was a teenager, he attended a segregated school, but dropped out in the 10th grade to help financially support his family and himself. 

Finley is an army veteran and was a skilled carpenter, who has lived a full, complicated and often messy life: he’s survived house fires, a bad auto accident and a divorce. Sadly, Finley lost his sight in his 60s as a result of glaucoma, and although he was forced to retire, the Winnsboro-born, Bernice-based singer/songwriter realized that he had an opportunity to pursue his lifelong dream of becoming a musician. Finley believes that his sight was improved by the power of prayer and his faith has also helped him focus on launching a music career in his 60s. According to Finley “losing my sight, gave me the perspective to see my true identity.”

Robert Finley’s rise has been rapid: As the story goes, Dan Auerbach immediately saw Finley’s potential, quickly proclaiming that the Louisiana-born and-based artist is “the greatest living soul singer.” He walked in like he was straight out of the swamp.” Auerbach recalls in press notes, adding, “He had leather pants, snakeskin boots, a big Country & Western belt buckle, a leather cowboy hat and a three-quarter-length leather duster. The final touch was the folding cane the legally blind Finley wore on his hip, in a holster. Basically, he was dressed for national television.” 

Auerbach went on to produce Finley’s 2017 breakthrough sophomore album Goin’ Platinum, an album released to widespread critical acclaim from the likes of the Associated Press, who praised Finley’s ability to lend “instant credibility to any song” and The Observer, who wrote “Finley’s versatile voice ranges from prime Motown holler to heartbroken falsetto croon.” The Louisiana-born and-based singer/songwriter went on to support the album with tours of 10 countries — with his live show drawing praise from a number of publications, including The New York Times and several others. Finley was also profiled on PBS NewsHour, which led him to becoming a contestant on the 2019 season of America’s Got Talent, eventually reaching the semi-finals. 

Finley’s third album Sharecropper’s Son is slated for a May 21, 2021 release through Easy Eye Sound. The album, continues the Louisiana-born and-based singer/songwriter’s successful collaboration with Auerbach and features songwriting from Finley, Auerbach, Bobby Wood and Pat McLaughlin and an an All-Star backing band that includes Auerbach (guitar); Kenny Brown (guitar), a member of R.L Burnside‘s backing band; studio legends Russ Pahl (pedal steel) and Louisiana-born, Nashville-based Billy Sanford (guitar); Bobby Wood (keys and as previously mentioned songwriting); Gene Chrisman (drums), who’s a Memphis and Nashville music legend; as well as contributions The Dap Kings‘ Nick Movshon (bass), Eric Deaton (guitar); Dave Roe (bass), who was member of Johnny Cash‘s backing band; Sam Bacco (percussion) and a full horn section. 

Sharecropper’s Son may arguably be the most personal album of Finley’s growing catalog, drawing directly from his life and experience. “I was ready to tell my story, and Dan and his guys knew me so well by then that they knew it almost like I do, so they had my back all the way,” Finley says in press notes. “Working in the cotton fields wasn’t a pleasant place to be, but it was part of my life. I went from the cotton fields to Beverly Hills. We stayed in the neighborhood most of our childhood. It wasn’t really all that safe to be out by yourself. One of the things I love about music is that, when I was a boy growing up in the South, nobody wanted to hear what I had to say or what I thought about anything. But when I started putting it in songs, people listened.”

Sharecropper’s Son’s latest single is album title track “Sharecropper’s Son,” a strutting, blues holler featuring James Cotton-like blasts of harmonica, shimmering Rhodes, a chugging groove, a classic blues solo, and Finley’s creaky and soulful crooning and shouts. And much like its predecessor, the song is fueled by both the lived-in experiences of its writer and the novelistic details within the song: you can feel the hot sun on Finley’s and his siblings’ skin, the sore muscles of backbreaking and unending labor in the fields. But throughout the song, its narrator expresses pride in his family doing whatever they could do legally to survive and keep food on the table.

Directed by Tim Hardman, the recently released video continues Hardman’s collaboration with Finley and Auerbach and was shot in Finley’s hometown of Bernice, LA — and it’s an intimate tour of small-town life: the cotton and corn fields where a young Finley and his family toiled, the local movie theater, the barber shop and what not. And while has lived a tough life, his joy and pride have never been taken from him.

New Video: JOVM Mainstay Yola Releases a Surreal and Hilarious Visual for Her Most Politically Charged Song to Date

With the 2019 release of her critically applauded, Dan Auerbach-produced full-length debut, last year’s  Walk Through Fire, the Bristol, UK-born, Nashville-based singer/songwriter, guitarist and JOVM mainstay Yola had a breakthrough year with a series of career-defining highlights including:

making her New York debut at Rockwood Music Hall
playing a buzz-worthy, breakout performance at that year’s SXSW
opening for a list of acclaimed artists including Kacey Musgraves, Lake Street Dive and Andrew Bird on a select series of US tour dates that featured stops at Newport Folk Festival, Hollywood Bowl, Austin City Limits Festival, and Lincoln Center Out of Doors
playing a YouTube session at YouTube Space New York
making her nationally televised debut on CBS This Morning: Saturday Sessions
receiving a Grammy nomination for Best Artist, along with fellow JOVM mainstays The Black Pumas.
making her late night national television debut on Jimmy Kimmel Live! 
releasing a soulful cover of Elton John‘s “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road,”that not only quickly became a staple of her live sets — but caught the attention of Sir Elton John, who praised her and her cover

Understandably, last year, the JOVM mainstay had hopes to build upon the momentum of the previous year with a handful of opportunities that came her way that many artists across the world would kill for: Early last year, it was announced that she was cited to play blues and rock ‘n’ roll pioneer Sister Rosetta Tharpe in Baz Luhrmann’s musical drama Elvis alongside Austin Butler in the title role, Tom Hanks as Colonel Tom Parker and Maggie Gyllenhaal as Presley’s mother. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic threw a series of monkey wrenches into her hopes and plans: Tom Hanks wound up contracting COVID-19 while filming in Australia and the rest of the shooting schedule was delayed for the better part of a year. In between filming, she was supposed to play a series of dates opening for country superstar Chris Stapleton and Grammy Award-winning acts  The Black Keys and Brandi Carlile — with one of those shows being at Madison Square Garden, which also got postponed indefinitely as a result of the pandemic.

However, Yola was able to finish her first Stateside headlining tour, a tour that included a stop at Music Hall of Williamsburg, a few weeks before the world went into lockdown.  In lieu of touring, the Bristol-born, Nashville-based artist wound up making virtual stops across the domestic, late night television show circuit: She played album bonus track “I Don’t Want to Lie” on The Late Late Show with James Corden — and she played a gospel-tinged cover of Nina Simone‘s classic and beloved “To Be Young, Gifted and Black” filmed at The Ryman Auditorium for Late Night with Seth Meyers. 

The Bristol-born, Nashville-based JOVM mainstay used the unexpected gift of time and space to ground herself physically and mentally as she began to write the material that would eventually become her highly-anticipated sophomore album Stand For Myself. Some of the album’s material was written several years previously and inspired by deeply personal moments, like her mother’s funeral. Other songs were written during pandemic isolation, and as a result they reflect on her personal and collective moments of longing and awakening. Tracks were also cowritten with Ruby Amanfu, John Bettis, Pat McLaughlin, Natalie Hemby, Joy Oladokun, Paul Overstreet, Liz Rose, Aaron Lee Tasjan, Hannah Vasanth and Bobby Wood. The album’s material will likely make a connection with anyone who has experienced feeling as though they were an “other” while urging the listener to challenge the biases that fuel bigotry, inequality and tokenism, which have deeply impacted her personal life and career.

“It’s a collection of stories of allyship, black feminine strength through vulnerability, and loving connection from the sexual to the social. All celebrating a change in thinking and paradigm shift at their core.” Yola says in press note, adding, “It is an album not blindly positive and it does not simply plead for everyone to come together. It instead explores ways that we need to stand for ourselves throughout our lives, what limits our connection as humans and declares that real change will come when we challenge our thinking and acknowledge our true complexity.” Ultimately, the JOVM mainstay’s hope is that the album will encourage both empathy and self actualization, all while returning to where she started, to the real Yola. “I kind of got talked out of being me, and now I’m here. This is who I’ve always been in music and in life. There was a little hiatus where I got brainwashed out of my own majesty, but a bitch is back.”

Continuing her ongoing collaboration with acclaimed producer, singer/songwriter, musician and label head Dan Auerbach, the album which was recorded late last year at Easy Eye Sound is inspired by the seminal albums she discovered through her mother’s record collection, as well as the eclectic mixtapes she created while listening to British radio that featured neo soul, R&B, Brit Pop and others. Featuring a backing band that includes Nick Movshon (bass), best known for his work with Amy Winehouse and Bruno Mars alongside Aaron Frazier (drums), a rising solo artist in his own right, the album is sonically is a noticeable shift from her debut, with the album’s aesthetic meshing symphonic soul, classic pop.

“Diamond Studded Shoes,” Stand For Myself’s first single is a woozy yet seamless synthesis of densely layered Phil Spector-like Wall of Sound pop, jangling and twanging country soul, 70s singer/songwriter pop and late 60s/early 70s Motown soul centered around the JOVM mainstay’s powerhouse vocals and some of the most incisive sociopolitical commentary of her growing catalog, as it focuses on the powerful, who have beaten down and cheated folks, who are desperate to survive with their dignity intact. “This song explores the false divides created to distract us from those few who are in charge of the majority of the world’s wealth and use the ‘divide and conquer’ tactic to keep it,” Yola explains. “This song calls on us to unite and turn our focus to those with a stranglehold on humanity.”

Directed by Kwaku Otchere, the recently released video for “Diamond Studded Shoes” places the JOVM mainstay into a brightly colored, surreal world in which the mundane, the fantastic, the shitty and the flat-out terrible all meet to often hilarious results. And of course, throughout Yola’s larger-than-life personality, sense of humor and decency can’t be denied.

“The video is in part inspired by The Truman Show and is about being trapped in a false construct,” Yola explains. “It is supposedly perfect, but you’re trapped in a life that wasn’t meant for you. I wanted to convey the feeling that everything you know to be true is not quite working the way it’s supposed to. The island at the end is a paradigm of mental conditioning, we are all trapped on an island of our own thinking, until we change it.”

Stand For Myself is slated for a June 30, 2021 release through Easy Eye Sound. Along with the album announcement and video, Yola announced a series of tour dates that included spots at Newport Folk and Newport Jazz Festivals, making her one of the few to play both in the same year. She’ll be opening for Chris Stapleton on his rescheduled 2021 tour. She’ll also play a headlining show at The Ryman Auditorium next year. Of course, you can find those dates and ticket information at her website: https://www.iamyola.com.

New Video: Robert Finley’s Strutting and Soulful “Country Boy”

67 year-old, Winnsboro, LA-born, Bernice, LA-based singer/songwriter Robert Finley was born into a family of sharecroppers, and was one of eight children. As a child, a young Finley was unable to regularly attend school and often worked with his family in the cotton fields. When he was a teenager, he attended a segregated school, but dropped out in the 10th grade to help financially support his family and himself.

Finley is an army veteran and was a skilled carpenter, who has lived a full, complicated and often messy life: he’s survived house fires, a bad auto accident and a divorce. Sadly, Finley lost his sight in his 60s as a result of glaucoma, and although he was forced to retire, the Winnsboro-born, Bernice-based singer/songwriter realized that he had an opportunity to pursue his lifelong dream of becoming a musician. Finley believes that his sight was improved by the power of prayer and his faith has also helped him focus on launching a music career in his 60s. According to Finley “losing my sight, gave me the perspective to see my true identity.”

Robert Finley’s rise has been rapid: As the story goes, Dan Auerbach immediately saw Finley’s potential, quickly proclaiming that the Louisiana-born and-based artist is “the greatest living soul singer.” He walked in like he was straight out of the swamp.” Auerbach recalls in press notes, adding, “He had leather pants, snakeskin boots, a big Country & Western belt buckle, a leather cowboy hat and a three-quarter-length leather duster. The final touch was the folding cane the legally blind Finley wore on his hip, in a holster. Basically, he was dressed for national television.” 

Auerbach went on to produce Finley’s 2017 breakthrough sophomore album Goin’ Platinum, an album released to widespread critical acclaim from the likes of the Associated Press, who praised Finley’s ability to lend “instant credibility to any song” and The Observer, who wrote “Finley’s versatile voice ranges from prime Motown holler to heartbroken falsetto croon.” The Louisiana-born and-based singer/songwriter went on to support the album with tours of 10 countries — with his live show drawing praise from a number of publications, including The New York Times and several others. Finley was also profiled on PBS NewsHour, which led him to becoming a contestant on the 2019 season of America’s Got Talent, eventually reaching the semi-finals.

Finley’s third album Sharecropper’s Son is slated for a May 21, 2021 release through Easy Eye Sound. The album, continues the Louisiana-born and-based singer/songwriter’s successful collaboration with Auerbach and features songwriting from Finley, Auerbach, Bobby Wood and Pat McLaughlin and an an All-Star backing band that includes Auerbach (guitar); Kenny Brown (guitar), a member of R.L Burnside’s backing band; studio legends Russ Pahl (pedal steel) and Louisiana-born, Nashville-based Billy Sanford (guitar); Bobby Wood (keys and as previously mentioned songwriting); Gene Chrisman (drums), who’s a Memphis and Nashville music legend; as well as contributions The Dap Kings’ Nick Movshon (bass), Eric Deaton (guitar); Dave Roe (bass), who was member of Johnny Cash’s backing band; Sam Bacco (percussion) and a full horn section.

Sharecropper’s Son may arguably be the most personal album of Finley’s growing catalog, drawing directly from his life and experience. “I was ready to tell my story, and Dan and his guys knew me so well by then that they knew it almost like I do, so they had my back all the way,” Finley says in press notes. “Working in the cotton fields wasn’t a pleasant place to be, but it was part of my life. I went from the cotton fields to Beverly Hills. We stayed in the neighborhood most of our childhood. It wasn’t really all that safe to be out by yourself. One of the things I love about music is that, when I was a boy growing up in the South, nobody wanted to hear what I had to say or what I thought about anything. But when I started putting it in songs, people listened.”

The album’s latest single “Country Boy” is a swampy and funky bit of country soul, centered around a tight, strutting groove, bluesy guitar licks, shimmering organ and Finley’s soulful and creaky falsetto. The song’s autobiographical lyrics were improvised on the spot with the tape rolling and the band setting up the song’s sultry groove. “When we play live, I always leave room in the show for lyrics I make up on the spot while the band hits a groove,” Finley explains. “I guess the younger generation calls it free-styling, but for me, it’s just speaking from my mind, straight from my soul.” While the lyrics hit upon classic blues fare such as heartbreak, loneliness, being broke, being a stranger far away from home and so on, the song is informed by lived-in personal experience: Finely has been that poor, country boy, moving far from home and busting his ass to make a better life for himself — to be broke, lonely and desperate, and longing for his beloved home. For me, the end result is a song that aims to be timeless in its sound, feel and themes and manages to hit every single mark with a heartfelt sincerity.

Directed by Tim Hardman, the recently released video for “Country Boy” was filmed in Finely’s birthplace of WInnsboro, where his family worked and lived as sharecroppers in the Jim Crow era South. While featuring an incredibly dapper and badass Finley strutting and dancing to the song and playing in a small, divey blues joint, the visual is also a gorgeously shot slice of daily life in America’s small towns.

Nashville-based singer/songwriter, topliner and pop artist Notelle has worked with an eclectic array of producers and DJs across the globe since 2014. And in that time, her work and contributions as a songwriter and vocalist has amassed well over 12 million Spotify streams with songs appearing on a number of popular playlists, including Spotify‘s FreshEDM, Hot New DanceFriday CratediggersHeart BeatsSad BeatsPop ChilloutStudy BreakFresh FindsFresh Finds: Poptronix, Italians Do It BetterShisha LoungeStepping OutNew Music Fridays and Deep Delight, as well as Apple Music‘s Pop Rising and Breaking Dance playlists. This wildly eclectic work has seen the Nashville-based artist released material on over labels like ArmadaMonstercatProximityLowlyHinkyAtLastSeeking BlueThrive MusicUltra MusicOphelia and Knight Vision (Warner Music) — while remaining fiercely independent.

After a lengthy and varied career as a go-to collaborator, Notelle decided to step out into the spotlight as a solo artist. Over the past three years, the rising Nashville-based artist has established and honed her own attention grabbing take on dark industrial pop. As a solo artist, Notelle has been named a Nashville Artist to Watch in 2020 by Nashville Scene. Her solo debut “Power” premiered on Lightning 100‘s The 615 and her third “Out of Love” received regular rotation by the station.

Last year, I wrote about two of the rising Nashville-based artist’s singles:

Notelle’s first single of 2021, “Doctor Sign” is heavily influenced by Trent Reznor, Au5 and Flume while further cementing her reputation for boundary-pushing production: in this case, dry and distorted yet seductive lead vocals and almost choral-like harmonic layers are paired with wobbling bass synths, industrial clang and clatter, razor sharp hooks and the sort of enormous bass drop that would make Skrillex proud. Interestingly, much like the rest of her steadily growing catalog. Notelle manages to craft bangers with an intensely unvarnished honesty that’s both intimate and uncomfortable. Our feelings and thoughts about ourselves, the situations we put ourselves in and the people we choose to deal with can be ugly — especially when we’ve been hurt or betrayed, if we’re truly honest about it. Of course, easier said than done!

“When writing ‘Doctor Sign’, I really gave myself permission to lean into some unattractive emotions,” Notelle explains. “I had a lot of anger towards someone who really took advantage of my kindness and natural vulnerability. I felt vindictive after that, and that’s not a particularly good color on me. I didn’t want to act on those feelings, so instead, I threw them in a song. I figured I could save myself the headache and skip out on all the repercussions of getting revenge. To me, this song is about watching someone cruel get their comeuppance. It’s out of character for me to feel satisfaction in watching someone reap what they sow, but in this particular situation…I didn’t mind it. I just pictured them letting their cruelty, and their actions, rot them from the inside out. Pictured them losing their mind because they can’t stand to be alone with themselves, and that was fine with me. Some people are their own punishment, so I can keep my hands clean and just throw my ill-wishes into a song. It’s therapeutic and it’s not my problem anymore.” 

Snohomish, Washington-based Americana act FretlandHillary Grace Fretland, Jake Haber and Luke Martin — released their self-titled full-length debut to critical praise from Billboard, American Songwriter, The Boot, Gimme Country, Americana Highways and No Depression, who wrote that “this talented Americana band … has a bright future ahead of it.” Their shimmering and aching ballads, which feature elements of alt-country and indie rock have managed to amass over a million streams across the globe.

Much like countless acts across the globe, the rising Pacific Northwest-based trio embarked on a successful West Coast tour in early 2020 but subsequent tours across the US and Europe were put on indefinite hold as a result of the pandemic. However, during that time the band wrote and recorded their highly-anticipated sophomore Nich Wilbur-produced sophomore album Could Have Loved You. Slated for a March 26, 2021 release through Soundly Music, Could Have Loved You reportedly finds the band crafting material that sonically is equal parts Nashville country, Pacific Northwest indie rock and dream pop. Thematically, the nine-song sophomore album finds the band telling stories of lost love and hard-won yet necessary lessons learned.

Could Have Loved You‘s third and latest single “Too Much” is a shimmering honky tonk that’s a proudly defiant yet a bit tongue-in-cheek anthem for those who have honestly stopped giving a damn about what people think — and attempted to just live their own lives. Interestingly, the song is inspired and informed by personal experience:

“There was indeed a wedding in Capitol Hill where I drank too much, danced too much, smoked too much, regretted too much, and punished myself too damn much,” the band’s Hilary Face Fretland explains in press notes. “A trait I am still trying to remedy. The only inconsistency in the song is that sometimes you can be ‘too serious’ or ‘not serious enough.’ That was deliberate. At the end of the day, if you’re feeling too much of anything you’re just being too hard on yourself. And I personally can “feel” too serious and not serious enough in a matter of hours.”  

New Video: JOVM Mainstays Palm Ghosts Release a Paranoid and Uneasy Meditation on Our Current Moment

Led by singer/songwriter, producer and Ice Queen Records founder Joseph Lekkas, the Nashville-based indie rock act Palm Ghosts can trace its origins to when Lekkas resided in Philadelphia. After spending a number of years playing in local bands like Grammar Debate! and Hilliard, Lekkas took a lengthy hiatus from writing, recording and performing music to book shows and festivals in and around the Philadelphia area.

Lekkas initially started Palm Ghosts as a solo recording project — and as a creative outlet to cope with an incapacitating bout of depression and anxiety. During a long Northeastern winter, he recorded a batch of introspective songs that at the time, he dubbed “sun-damaged American music” that would eventually become the project’s full-length debut. After a short tour in 2013 to support the album, Lekkas packed up his belongings and relocated to Nashville, enticed by the city’s growing indie rock scene.

Palm Ghosts’ third album, 2018’s Architecture was a bit of a change in sonic direction for the project with Lekkas writing material influenced by the sounds of the 80s — in particular, Cocteau Twins, Peter Gabriel, Dead Can Dance, New Order, The Cure, and others. A couple of years have passed since I’ve written about the Nashville-based Lekkas, but as it turns out the JOVM mainstay has been busy. Much like countless acts across the world last year, the isolation of the COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns and restrictions, political and financial turmoil and protest fueled an immediacy and energy in the songs Lekkas and company had been writing.

The band’s fourth album, Lifeboat Candidate was written and recorded remotely with the individual bandmembers emailing song ideas, instrumental parts, lyrics and melodies back and forth. Slated for a March 19, 2021 release, Lifeboat Candidate is a fittingly dark and dystopian effort, full of confusion, fear and dread — but with a bit of humor and hope. Interestingly, Lifeboat Candidate’s first single “Blind,” was the one of the first songs written and recorded last summer. Centered around tribal drumming, shimmering synth arpeggios and slashing guitars, “Blind” is one part Peter Gabriel 3 and Security-era Peter Gabriel, one part Joy Division and one part Gang of Four. It’s an uneasy and tense song that’s about the suspicion and paranoia that stand in the way of truly and honestly seeing people that seems all too suited for the age of QAnon, NewsMax and OAN.

The recently released video for “Blind” is a paranoid and uneasy fever dream using rapidly flashing collage artwork that evokes a dystopian hellscape in flames. Does it feel familiar, yet?