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Walk Through Fire (2019), 5.5/10
Stand For Myself (2021), 4.5/10

English-born Nashville-raised black singer-songwriter Yola (Yolanda Quartey) debuted with the EP Orphan Offering (2016), followed by the album Walk Through Fire (2019), produced by Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys. An impressive vocalist, her hybrid is soaked in the 1970s: Leon Russell's country-soul (It Ain't Easier), the soul-rock ballads of Bob Seger (Love All Night), the country-rock of the Eagles (Ride Out in the Country), the gospel-rock of the Band (Walk Through Fire), and shades of J.J. Cale and the Doobie Brothers. And sometimes it harks even further back in time, like Shady Grove that evokes the simple country-pop pleasures of the Everly Brothers or Deep Blue Dream that evokes a million waltzing Nashville singalong. Her forte are the stately orchestral ballad Faraway Look and the stomping, rollicking I Don't Wanna Lie.

If the debut album was derivative, Stand For Myself (Easy Eye, 2021), also produced by Auerbach, is even less original. It sinks in sentimental molasses (the reggae ballad Barely Alive, the hymn-like Be My Friend) and traditional country fare (Diamond Studded Shoes, Whatever You Want), amid nods to funk-soul (If I Had To Do It All Again) and to Tamla soul of the 1960s (Break the Bough). The roaring and soaring Stand for Myself is the one song to save.

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