Over the past few months, I’ve written a bit about the up-and-coming London-based singer/songwriter Yola, and as you may recall she’s led a rather remarkable life — the sort that should eventually be made into an inspiring biopic: She grew up extremely poor and as a child was actually banned from making music. As an adult, she has overcome homelessness, being an abusive relationship, stress-induced voice loss and literally being engulfed in flames in a house fire, and all of those things inspired her Dan Auerbach-proudced full-length debut Walk Through Fire, slated for a February 22, 2019 release through Easy Eye Sound.
So far, the up-and-coming British singer/songwriter has received praise from a number of major media outlets both nationally and internationally including NPR, Rolling Stone, Wall Street Journal, The Tennessean, Refinery 29, Billboard, American Songwriter, BrooklynVegan, Nashville Scene, Paste and Stereogum. But perhaps much more interesting for you reader, listener and viewer, Yola has had a lengthy career as a backing vocalist, songwriter and guest vocalist on a number of pop hits — and she has opened for James Brown and briefly was a member of the renowned trip hop act Massive Attack before traveling to Nashville to work with Auerbach and a backing band that features musicians, who have worked with Elvis and Aretha Franklin.
Walk Through Fire’s first single “Ride Out in the Country” was a Muscle Shoals-like take on honky tonk country that to my ears recalled Sandra Rhodes’ under-appreciated Where’s Your Love Been. Centered around twangy guitar chords, lap steel guitar, some Rhodes electric organ, a soaring hook and Yola’s easy-going and soulful vocals, the song is an achingly sad breakup song, written from the perspective of someone reeling from a devastating breakup, complete with the recognition that your former lover has moved on and that maybe you should be doing so too — even if it’s profoundly difficult for you. “Faraway Look,Faraway Look,” the album’s second single was a slow-burning and swooning, Phil Spector Wall of Sound, meets classic Motown Records track that was centered around a soulful, old school arrangement and a soaring hook while being roomy enough for Yola’s incredible vocal range to shine in a well-written and well-crafted song.
Walk Through Fire’s third and latest single “Love All Night (Work All Day)” is a slick and soulful amalgamation of Motown and Muscle Shoals soul, with a dash of Nashville country and 70s AM rock and it’s a perfect vehicle for Yola’s warm and effortlessly soulful vocals. Much like the preceding singles, “Love All Night (Work All Day)” comes from hard-fought and hard-earned experience, which gives the material a wisdom and honesty that can be so rare in contemporary pop songs. In this case, the song’s narrator details a life of working multiple jobs to scrape by, having big dreams and at some point taking an enormous risk to achieve them. And what makes the song remarkable, beyond its well-crafted and well-written nature, is the fact that the song is a celebration of the little person, who’s out there busting their ass to get by, trying to maintain their dignity and sanity in the rat race. Keep on dreaming and keep on hustling.
Directed by Dan Teef, the recently released video for “Love All Night (Work All Day)” was shot in a South London bar and is centered around a beautiful young, working couple with big dreams. “My new video for ‘Love All Night (Work All Day)’ was shot in a stunning pub in Peckham, South London,” Yola says of the video for her latest single. “I’ve lived all over London (including on the streets in East London at one time) but before that I lived in a shared house in South London and I think the area will always feel like my London home. The song celebrates a way of life. It’s a life I used to live, growing up in Bristol and working multiple jobs to get by as I started out in music. I love listening to music from people who’ve not just been on a conveyor belt to the big time and I think it is important to hear more music from the working class again. People who, at some point, had no choice but to work all day long and maybe take a risk in pursuit of what they love.”