13 songs time-93:49
Canadian native Layla Zoe finds herself playing largely to European and Canadian audiences with her crack power trio backing her. This is her second live record and a double CD to boot. The high energy show was recorded at Spirit Of 66 in Verviers, Belgium in 2014 in front of an enthusiastic crowd. German blues-rock maestro Henrik Freischlader, whose CD I recently reviewed, produced and co-wrote the original songs with Layla. Layla’s weapon of choice is a strong and husky set of pipes. The closest comparison would be with fellow tough-girl singer Maggie Bell. Along with Henrik they manage to write fresh and interesting lyrics.
Jan Laacks on guitar is the master of quite a few styles including blues-rock, blues and the Eddie Van Halen school of pyrotechnics. Gregor Sonnenberg on bass and Hardy Fischotter on drums provide a solid foundation. The band can bring it down slow and/or tender when it’s called for. Layla’s voice and delivery demand attention and gels well with the band.
Layla’s powerhouse voice is evident from the first few moments of “I’ve Been Down”. At song’s end it quickly segues into “Pull Yourself Together”. It isn’t subtle as wah-wah notes fly like shrapnel including a brief guitar quote from Jimi Hendrix. The only lyric that doesn’t ring true is “I’m married to the blues”. There are blues elements here, but this isn’t blues per se. This music owes more to hard-edged rhythm and blues. “I Choose You” clearly shows Jan Laacks’ commanding guitar technique. He easily jumps from rhythm to lead guitar.
Jan gets a nice blues sound utilizing what sounds like a Leslie speaker to great atmospheric effect on “Green Eyed Lover”, an ode to a former lover of Layla’s. The guitar playing gets jazzy and bluesy on the slow and deliberate “Gemini Heart”. “They Lie” finds Layla expounding on the deceitfulness of politicians, CEO’s and such. “The Lily”, the title song of a previous album, reveals a tender and soulful vocal.
The last original tune “Never Met A Man Like You” is a perfect lead into James Brown’s “It’s A Man’s World” that is transformed into an eighteen minute tour-de-force featuring a long guitar segment. The encore is a gritty and heavy cover of The Beatles’ “Yer Blues”. The second encore is Layla singing “Let It Be” as a solo.
Considering Layla is an unknown quantity in the states, she and the band deliver the goods over a ninety-three minute set featuring seamless performances, well thought out lyrics and guitar virtuosity. They should have little trouble in finding success in the U.S.A.. These tough girl vocals with a heart of gold do the trick for me.