Real Actual Roots: Yola Carter On Growing Up British, Loving Americana
Few in the roots scene had heard of Yola Carter before she made her first appearance at Nashville’s Americana Fest in September, which might’ve suggested that she was some sort of musical rookie. In fact, the 33-year-old black, British singer-songwriter is a seasoned studio and stage pro.
She’s acutely aware, though, that her musical background might be illegible to many Americana types, given that she spent a dozen years amassing credits under her given name, Yolanda Quartey, as a lyric and melody writer, arranger and featured gospel-soul diva in the world of U.K. electronic and pop acts like Bugz In The Attic, Massive Attack and Will Young.
Long before that, Carter was a fiddle-playing kid growing up in a small seaside town in the southwest corner of the U.K., enthralled with Dolly Parton’s autobiographical Appalachian tales, then a young adult treating the O Brother, Where Art Thou soundtrack and The Byrds’ Sweethearts of the Rodeo as gateways into exploring everything from old-time music to longhaired country-rock.
Her sights were set on making hippified, down-home music of her own, but like many a musician before her, she elected to take all the paying gigs she could in the meantime, fashioning herself into a far more skillful singer and song-crafter in the process.
“Fly Away,” a magnetic, fiddle-powered mountain rocker that appears on Carter’s solo debut Orphan Country, showcases the striking results. She delivers its deftly austere melody in a keening, needle-pointed timbre, her phrasing both vigorous and full of finesse, registering a desperate determination to escape emotional suffocation. Late in the track, she works her way up to a feverish vamp against her electrified string band accompaniment.
Over sandwiches at an East Nashville deli, Carter described what it’s like perpetually being expected to explain how her professional history, [Read More]