YOLA shines on Jools Holland’s Annual Hootenanny

YOLA just became a new search term.

I am writing this post on New Years Day 2019, having just caught up with last nights Jools Holland’s Annual Hootenanny. Broadcast annually on BBC2 since 2006. It is one of my favourite television music programmes. The show’s format is a celebrity laden audience entertained by an eclectic mix of musicians. The party counts down to midnight and then welcomes in the New Year with a fantastic build up to midnight. The reason the show works so well is because it can provide the perfect background music and “as live” performances to herald the start of a new year. Perfect programming for a party with friends at home, whilst simultaneously allowing those who are home alone to feel like they’re part of the celebrations whilst watching the TV “concert”. You can watch it sat on the sofa alone  or enjoy dancing round the living rooms with friends.

The show is pre-recorded a couple of weeks earlier. However I’ve never understood why social media and the click bait press get really angry that the show isn’t broadcast live. The producers and Jools would never get the brilliant line up if it was actually New Year’s Eve. Jools explains that as a viewer “You never quite know what’s going to be there and who’s going to turn up.”

This year LA rock trio The Record Company turned up and impressed with a great harmonica led crowd pleaser. George Ezra sang Paradise and Shotgun. I love his throwback style to those 1950’s clean looking, guitar wielding front men, complete with baggy trousers tailored to the ankles. Surely George’s lyrics are a country song in disguise? Willie Nelson would be proud to sing: “I’ll be riding shotgun, underneath the hot sun.”

Mixing Emerging and Established Artists

Centre stage through the show are the super tight and talented musicians that make up the Jools Holland Rythym and Blues Orchestra. Soul and gospel singer Ruby Turner, an ever present feature of the orchestra, shone in the pre-midnight spot with the aptly titled Time Is Winding Up. Michael Buble, Jess Glynn, Nile Rodgers and Chic all performed with Jools and his hugely talented musicians and in doing so, all looked just a little bit cooler and sounded somehow more authentic.

The driving force behind the show is Mr Holland himself whose obvious love of the other musicians’ talent is totally infectious. The programme and its sister show, Later with Jools Holland, share the same ethos with The British Country Music Festival, mixing emerging and established artists. Over recent years the holy trinity of British singer songwriters Amy Winehouse, Adele and Ed Sheeran have all performed on Hootenanny. An important step in their coming of age party.


Queen of British Country Soul

I can’t really remember country music being featured before on the show. This was put right with another encouraging example of British Country music artists creeping into the mainstream The proclaimed Queen of British Country Soul , YOLA took her opportunity so well. She had two performance spots. First singing Faraway Look and then a medley of Slow Train and Long Walk To DC.

Faraway Look is a fantastic 60’s fusion of soul and southern country. The song explores the themes of oppression and being trapped in a relationship. The chorus underlies the taut tension. Beautifully written in the couplet “That faraway look in your eyes, It’s getting harder to disguise”. Yola will be a new name for most of the viewers. From the first notes she drew everyone in, with the obvious time spent learning her craft. The line, “I wish I knew what you were wishing for”, was an amazing wall of sound. Powerful and understated at the same time. The harmony between Yola’s amazing soul voice and the brass section of Jool’s Rythm and Blues Orchestra was a career changing way to see in 2019.

Yola is clearly influenced by the late 60’s sound of Stax records. She sang a rousing version of The Staple Singers Long Way To DC. The song is politically charged a celebration of the Martin Luther Kings march to Washington.

The hybrid of soul and country music is modern-day example of how British musicians influenced the origins of country music and its history.  

Old Country Word

I always thought Hootenanny was a Scottish word, I think I just connected New Year’s Eve with Scotland. However Wikipedia describe Hootenanny is an Appalachian colloquialism that was used in early twentieth century America. As a placeholder name to refer to things whose names were forgotten or unknown. In this usage it was synonymous with thingamajig or whatchamacallit, as in: “Hand me that hootenanny.” Hootenanny was also an old country word for “party”. So it seems fitting that Yola has introduced British country soul to the programme. Interestingly Yola is the only artist on the bill who doesn’t presently have a Wikipedia page. That is going to change very soon with the release of her new album Walk Through Fire.

Walk Through Fire

Faraway Look is the first track on Yola’s new album, Walk Through Fire , produced by Dan Auerbach from The Black Keys it’s official release date 22nd February 2019

Walk Through Fire
Faraway Look
Shady Grove
Ride Out In The Country
It Ain’t Easier
Walk Through Fire
Rock Me Gently
Love All Night (Work All Day)
Deep Blue Dream
Lonely The Night
Still Gone
Keep Me Here
Love Is Light

Image credits
Copyright: ©ALYSSE GAFKJEN 2018

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