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Album review: LAYLA ZOE

Breaking Free (RUF)

Passionate blues-rock with integrity and a Joplin-esque heart.

“I rip people’s hearts out, then put them back in,” says Canadian singer-songwriter Layla Zoe – and she does just that on Breaking Free, a tenth album that delivers in spades.

Predicated on her guitarist Jan Laacks’ expansive arrangements, Zoe’s heartfelt performances are nailed by engineer Martin Meinschäfer, while special guest Sonny Landreth adds some angular slide on the lascivious Wild One. There’s a Zeppelin-style bombast on the opening Backstage Queen, while the title track is tempered by the moody blues ballad of Highway Of Tears, on which she adds a guttural growl to emphasise lyrical meaning.

Breaking Free is a well-balanced, diverse and hard-hitting blues rock album, glued together by Zoe’s impressive phrasing. Further highlights include the funky Workhorse, a country-meets-Hendrix vibe on Sweet Angel and the slide-infused A Good Man, all of which perfectly frame her emotive attack.