Yola Carter at The Spiegeltent St Andrew Square is up from Bristol with her band to give Edinburgh and “Before The Fringe” a small sampler of what can only be described as an incredible voice. Yola, without a doubt, has potentially one of the great soul and gospel voices of her generation (well just one of the great voices actually), and is fusing that sound with her love of country music...a bit like replacing Dolly Parton with Aretha Franklin, and it is great to see someone defying pre-defined musical stereotypes in music in this way.
With a full country (at times folk) sound behind her – rhythm guitar, lead guitar, fiddle, drums and acoustic bass, this set of original material gave us a little insight into the mind that writes the songs. Yola Carter is a very good songwriter and obviously having fun at the moment playing around with the almost obligatory formats of a country music song, but you have to listen to what this writer is telling you as it is so easy to gloss over the lyrics when you hear that familiar country sound. The song “Dead and Gone” with lines such as “There was a time when my people were product to you” is a good example of this. As with all the great country writers that have ever been, much of Yola’s writing centres around the darker sides of emotions and events (always such a more interesting side for any writer to explore anyhow).
Some of the songs in this set come from the first EP “Orphan Offering”, and “Orphan Country” from this EP is one of my favourites from this set. My other favourite “Little Red Light” just showed the audience how effortlessly Yola and the band can move into that classic soul sound whenever they want.
Yola Carter has a voice that will let her sing anything that she wants to, and without stereotyping the lady here, I would love to hear those tones on a few old fashioned church gospel songs. I read the bio on Yola’s website at http://yolacarter.com/ and can understand that, having gone down that road already, the current sound is what is taking her attention at the moment, but given that we have a huge international audience here in Edinburgh at the moment as we have just finished the Edinburgh Jazz & Blues Festival and getting ready for the huge Edinburgh International Festival and Edinburgh Festival Fringe, I am sure that many visitors would just be amazed at what a voice like Yola Carter’s could do with the classic and internationally known “Amazing Grace” song.
This set could only give us an opportunity to hear a small part of the many different genres and styles of music that Yola Carter can apply her voice to.
Review by Tom King