Having toured Europe's jazz and piano bars as Stephenie Coker, joined a troupe that performed a musical version of the life of Mahalia Jackson and sung with a gospel band, the Nigerian-born artist Layori already has quite the CV. But this solo CD is a new step that seems to have warranted an entirely new name. Despite living in America, Britain, Portugal and Germany, her West African roots are what ooze through most clearly here. And ooze they certainly do. Her voice has been compared to Tracy Chapman and Sade, and for good reason. It's a gentle, mesmeric sound that floats across to best effect in soul-pop hybrids such as Circle and What is Love, backed by simple guitar chords and soft drumming. Love -that much-sung old-timer - is, as one might expect, a central theme of the album. In 10 tracks, the word crops up in four titles. But, then, we would hardly expect of less of Sade, would we? Still, while the backing is smooth, in some cases the lyrics could do with some sharpening: "Life is a circle, turning round and round and round," she muses in Circle. And Your Love also grinds after a few listens: the affections of the lucky subject are deemed not only "satisfying" but "exciting" and "hypnotising", all made to rhyme with one another. Perhaps this can be put down to writing in a second language, though. While Origin is mostly sung in English, it opens and closes with bluesy songs in Layori's native Yoruba, and on Aquesta Te, there's even a smattering of Spanish thrown in. A brief skip through at 37 minutes, but it's calm, sultry stuff to unwind to at the end of a long summer day.
Published: August 5, 2009 04:00 AM