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Layla ZoeLayla Zoe
Album: Breaking Free
Label: RUF
Tracks: 11
Website: http://www.layla.ca

Layla Zoe is regarded as Canada's queen of the blues. Breaking Free is her tenth album and follows her 2013 release, The Lily.

She opens up with Backstage Queen, a full-on production with so much going on, this is a very commercial sound - slide guitars, booming bass and drums , but the vocals get a little lost in the mix, which is a shame as I wanted to hear more.

Why Do We Hurt the Ones We Love is the opposite. Layla sings over some Hendrix-inspired solo guitar and the song builds slowly and the vocals are right in front. Much better.

Slide maestro Sonny Landreth is on hand to add his magic to Wild One, but this is a slow jazzy song that cries out for a more upbeat treatment.

From the opening bars of Highway of Tears you know we are in for a long ride, and at more than 11 minutes long, you are not wrong. One of the problems of letting a guitar player handle production, I suppose.

Anyone expecting an album of pure blues will be disappointed. No this is an album of finely-polished blues-infused songs.

The title track, is more like it, a driving beat propels the song forward, with some tasty guitar and backing vocals filling the sound nicely.

A different direction on Work Horse, a funk-filled song that oozes class, with some nice guitar fills.

The slow ballad Sweet Angel gives Layla the opportunity to show her versatility.

There is a slow cover of the Rolling Stones classic Wild Horses that doesn't float my boat. Much better is the rock ballad A Good Man, it may be a cliché but this one ticks all the boxes, with its chiming guitar and driving rhythm.

The final track, He Loves Me, opens with single piano and is a poignant nicely-produced song that brings this intriguing collection of songs to an end.

John Knighton