Eleanor McEvoy - Yola [SACD] (Music CD)

Release Date: 07 October 2013
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Yola was Eleanor McEvoy's follow-up to the lavishly produced pop record Snapshots, but the two records could hardly be farther apart in instrumentation. Recorded semi-live, set entirely in sparse piano-guitar-and-drum arrangements, and conceptually centered around McEvoy's partnership with classically trained pianist Brian Connor, Yola seems to find its guiding principle in its final song, which celebrates "something so wonderful, something so pure." The purity of the arrangements is indeed wonderful. McEvoy sings "Seasoned Love" in a piano-only performance that sounds like a number from a Stephen Sondheim musical, and goes a step sparser on "Isn't It a Little Late?," which is backed only by drums. But despite the vast change in instrumentation, very little separates McEvoy's songwriting on Yola from her Snapshots work. Most of these songs could easily be padded with strings, electric guitar, and synthesizers and hold up well on the earlier album. The minimal settings on Yola demonstrate what so many other barebones efforts have shown: that good songs are still good when stripped to their essentials, that less is often more, and that complexity isn't always an improvement. But then, neither is simplicity. Simple arrangements showcase an artist's fundamental strengths -- in McEvoy's case, her beautifully and skillfully crafted melodies and evocative vocals -- but they can also reveal an artist's weaknesses. Snapshots seemed an attempt to cast McEvoy as a new Sarah McLachlan, but the former lacks the latter's proficiency as a guitarist and intricacy of lyrical expression. McEvoy seems to write about only two subjects, lost love and found love, and she tends to rely on well-worn clich?s like rain as a symbol for hardship and "me and you" as a central rhyme. Still, those weaknesses only contribute to the directness and purity of the recordings, and McEvoy's melodies are easily strong enough to stand on their own. ~ Evan Cater
Release Date: 07 October 2013