Yola is the simple, yet fittingly lyrical, name that is the chosen moniker for Yolanda Quartey, and the British singer-songwriter's name is coming to be lauded from coast to coast in America. Yola is fresh off a smashing run at SXSW Festival in Austin and has just been named among the featured artists at the 2019 Newport Folk Festival.

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There could be no better time for the artist from Bristol, England, to offer a distinctive take on US national television for CBS This Morning's “Saturday Sessions” for March 23.

No interview time was slated for the singer, but that didn't stop Yola’s songs from sharing her stories all on their own, or her one-of-a-kind voice from sinking into American hearts and souls over morning coffee.

Coming from nothing

The range and pathos in Yola’s voice are so unique that no listener can forget them, or even the place where he or she first heard them.

Yola brings storytelling, female sensibilities, and soulful passion to Saturday Sessions on CBS This Morning. [Source: CBS/YouTube]
Yola brings storytelling, female sensibilities, and soulful passion to Saturday Sessions on CBS This Morning. [Source: CBS/YouTube]

As with the first time hearing Lucinda Williams, Valerie June, Judy Collins, or Joan Baez, Yola’s voice etches a memory. “We didn't have like toys or anything, so everything I focused on was musical,” the singer-songwriter described, reflecting on her childhood, in a recent interview with the Independent. Her youngest childhood memories revolve around her attachment to her mother's record collection and soaking in the heartfelt soul of Aretha Franklin along with the tender and playful odes of Dolly Parton.

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She remembers standing out as a complete oddity in preschool, singing “9 to 5.” In contrast, Country Music has now become a huge draw in the UK, so much so that established and rising country music stars consistently schedule stops “across the pond,” in the last 3-5 years.

By 19, Yola had launched a career as a songwriter, but she still honed her skills in electronic and dance music, working with Massive Attack, Will Young, and Bugz in the Attic.

It took a genuine return to her roots to draw out the tones and the meaning in her songs on “Walk Through Fire,” released last month, and the Black Keys’ frontman, Dan Auerbach, delved into the heart and history of Yola to prompt the personal and phenomenal songs of her “Saturday Sessions” set.

Sad, sweet, and strong

The title song of “Walk Through Fire” may be the most heart rendering of the collection, harkening to the singer-songwriter's true-life battle of nearly burning in a home fire and contrasting the emotions with the torments of love.

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Currently, however, the signature song for Yola is “Faraway Look,” with the soaring chorus that catapults to the stratosphere, and the sense of knowing that only comes from a woman's heart. The live performance only evoked more pure emotion, and likely is leading to many more downloads of the song.

Love All Night (Work All Day)” is a terrific, twangy, infectious ballad promoting the teamwork needed in relationships. It's a guarantee that this one will lodge itself in the brain, so be prepared to keep singing it.

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The fusion of country guitars with a tinge of Motown groove gets this one off the ground. The passionate screams at the close are added treats.

Closing the morning set, and available in full version on YouTube, is “Ride Out in The Country” with its gentle, ascending notes at the opening, and rich imagery of the calming power of rural life. This track, like others on the album, has some backing from some beloved pros in country music, but for the uninformed who have not seen the video, the surprise won't be spoiled in this review. Leave it to say that this song was written by Yola through calling up memories of when “I used to be a doormat,” in her own words. By the end of the song of regrettable love, she finds her center and her sense of self once more.

By the way, Yola recovered just fine from the wounds of that fire-- thanks to being entrenched with “Stop, Drop, and Roll.” Her eyebrows and exquisite afro came back better than ever, and the only thing better than this performance would be to see her in her own element onstage somewhere in America, where she will assuredly warm souls.

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