Last night, on February 12, 2011, I, along with about 120 other blessed people (who didn’t attend the Heart concert at Kingston’s KROCK Centre) were treated to a vocal performance that none of us will likely ever forget! Only once in a generation is a voice born with the musical power possessed by Ms Layla Zoe, and as she told us last night, “I was born to sing.”
The Kingston Blues Society presented opening band Tore Down (Belleville, ON) who were also very good and pulled people to the dance floor from the beginning of their set, followed by Canada’s “Darling of the Blues”, Layla Zoe and her “All-Star Band.” Layla’s band hadn’t actually played together as a unit before – as keyboard player Wayne “Shakey” Dagenais told me – but you wouldn’t have known it, because they were nothing short of superb! Dagenais (whose keyboard solos were particularly riveting), guitarist Pete Schmidt, bassist James Rasmussen and drummer Drew Austin all allowed their instrumental prowess to shine in the brightest light and they enticed everyone to the dance floor and kept them there all night. They are seasoned professionals as Dagenais also plays for the Gary Kendall Band and Rasmussen and Austin with the David Rotundo Band while Schmidt has played with both, among countless others.
From the moment she sang her first notes, Layla proved that she’s a blues legend in the making. While she’s been called the reincarnate of Janis Joplin because she sounds just like her and has her whole vibe down pat to the point that it’s surreal, young Ms Zoe, didn’t perform any Joplin songs last night but stuck to her own originals, along with blues & roots classics by the likes of Bob Marley (“No Woman No Cry”) B.B. King (“The Thrill Is Gone”), Etta James (“I’d Rather Go Blind” – my personal favourite rendition of the evening which left my jaw gaping to the floor!) and Muddy Waters (“Hoochie Coochie Man”) in which she interwove her own lyrics throughout the songs, personalizing them to fit her like a glove.
Layla’s spirit is incandescent and her motive is true. Dressed in a paisley, turquoise, orange & white hippy-style sun dress that matched her tattoos – you couldn’t tell where the dress ended and the tattoos began – sporting magnificent 4-inch turquoise pumps, with that long strawberry blond hair cascading down her shoulders, Layla looks and moves the part (why she didn’t get the role of Janis Joplin in the upcoming biopic, I don’t know! She would have been perfect for it!), but above all, it’s her glorious voice and original renditions of blues standards that are 100% convincing. When I wasn’t on the dance floor, I closed my eyes and listened to her sing and felt as if I’d transcended the space I was in to a place called Blues Heaven. I’d look over at the other women sitting at my table and the look on their faces told me that I wasn’t dreaming…Layla Zoe is absolutely extraordinary!!
Layla, who was born in Victoria, British Columbia, now makes Montreal her home. She teaches Blues in the School programs around the country and has five independent releases to date: You Will (EP – 2004), Shades of Blue (2006), Hoochie Coochie Woman (2007), Live at Errington Hall (2008) and The Firegirl (2009), several of which are available through her website at www.layla.ca or CDBaby.
“Layla Zoe has performed with the late great Jeff Healey, the Downchild Blues Band, Danny Marks, Henrik Freischlader and countless others, who have sung high praises of Layla’s ability to channel her strong emotions into her performances.” She has signed with Cable Car Records and will be releasing her 6th album in the fall of 2011.
If you are a blues fan or enjoy dynamic female vocalists, DO NOT MISS an opportunity to see Layla Zoe perform live! I have never heard a woman’s voice THIS awesome, live in concert, EVER!!
You Won’t Call (original)
Rock Me Baby
Rock and Roll Guitar Man (original)
Good Morning Little School Boy
Sweet Home Chicago
The Thrill Is Gone
Leave You For Good (original)
No Woman No Cry
Hoochie Coochie Woman
I’d Rather Go Blind