At a recently revamped Borderline, Yola Carter took to the stage amidst an air of anticipation with Carter having recently won UK Artist of the Year at the AMA UK Awards. Carter is an immediate stage presence, both warm and welcoming and clearly the leader of the band. She immediately engages with the audience and throughout the night is both humorous and open with her self-deprecating banter.
Carter introduced the band as a ‘fine rabble of musicians’ who all bar one, hail from Bristol plus Carter’s surprise additional backing vocalist of the evening, Erin Rae, who has been the go to girl in Nashville recently for many artists for any harmony work required. Carter advised us that this was the first time the band had performed as a ten piece and at times it showed. However, for a large band who have not played together as a unit before the performance was mostly quite tight.
Carter is working on her LP and most of the songs on offer tonight were either from her current EP, Orphan Offering, or likely to appear on the album once it is released. Of note were On The Wire, which gave Carter a chance to demonstrate her vocal range, an up-tempo What You Do and Gas Light with its country and western swing proving very popular with the appreciative crowd. Then came Heed My Words, which had soaring vocals from Carter along with fabulous harmony work from the backing singers and showed signs of the building cohesion of her band. A real group effort, this track was a standout of the evening.
We were also treated to a track called Born Again which was a song where Carter really let herself go and the vocal pyrotechnics on display left you in no doubt that she has a voice full of power, as well as subtlety. There was also a respectful cover version of Delaney & Bonnie’s Country Life, a nod perhaps to some of the music which Carter feels closest to. However, with the variety of songs on display on the evening it is hard to tell where Carter wants to be as there were soul, blues, country and gospel tinges to individual songs and she is very hard to pigeon hole based on this performance. This is not necessarily a bad thing given that she can perform all these styles but when building up an audience it may be beneficial to have a more settled sound with the odd foray aside than to show you can play the whole spectrum all at once. This again was demonstrated when Carter was joined up front by Erin Rae on Leave You Darlin’, which was then followed by Fly Away. This latter track had Carter in full blues holler mode which she is very adept at but again was a drastic shift in style from the track preceding it. Carter then shifted gear again for the final song Free To Roam. The diversity of styles and sounds on show on the night, whilst all ably performed, were almost too much to expect any one fan to be able to share the whole vision.
Carter told us she was happy to be here and that this was month 16 of her project. Overall, it was hard to fault the performance as Carter gave it her all and was engaging and likeable throughout. Though the styles varied, the performance itself was all heart and on that basis I believe she has both the will and talent to go further but she may have to limit the breadth of her abilities to do so.