Breakout Americana star Yola is here with her debut Walk Through Fire, making us simultaneously wonder where she’s been all of our listening lives, yet uncertain she hasn’t been here all along. And perhaps she has. Her writing conveys a soul running like a current through our collective experiences of love and loss, her voice is confident and strong but at times delicate, and at every measure, a safe place to land.
Resisting racially backhanded “opportunities” to sing background for outfits in her native England, Yola decided not to stop honing her craft as a leader, eventually winding up in Nashville. It was here she encountered The Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach, who produced Walk Through Fire. The title track was penned after the literal ran a bit too close to the metaphorical when Yola accidentally set herself on fire in her home, then processed what that could have meant. In the time since, Yola has shared the stage with idols Dolly Parton and Mavis Staples, and earned a cameo on 2019’s irresistible The Highwomen.
This breakout certainly hadn’t escaped the Recording Academy, which nominated Yola for Best New Artist, Best Americana Album, and Best American Roots Performance and Best Roots song for “Faraway Look.” When wondering how a British woman can dominate in Americana, we can think of early rock & rollers who knew there was something special happening in the Delta. More simply, we can look to the universality of music and the power and possibilities inherent in a strong voice.
Yola can be found selling out her headlining tour going on now, as well as on multiple dates of Chris Stapleton’s All-American Road Show and spinning coast-to-coast on more than half of the JBE Triple A panel, and has been since early-2019.
Photo by Alysse Gafkjen