September 7, 2008

Out on a Limb for Phantoms

By Billy Sloan

THERE are still a few months until I choose my favourite records of 2008...but I've already reserved a place on the list for Phantom Limb.

The Bristol band's brilliant new single - Don't Say A Word - is one of the most impressive debut records I've heard in years.

It is taken from their self-titled album which is an amazing fusion of soul and country music.

Phantom Limb are led by singer Yolanda Quartey, whose influences include Aretha Franklin, The Staple Singers and The Band. That's good enough for me.

She is a former session singer with acts such as Massive Attack, The Cuban Brothers and Dogs In The Attic.

But Yolanda is delighted to be fronting her own group, even though her music career was almost over before it began.

She told me: "In 2006, my voice went. I got vocal nodules because of an allergy to smoke in clubs. It was aggravating my throat so badly I couldn't sing.

"I was treated with speech therapy. It was depressing to think I'd never sing again."

Luckily Yolanda recovered and Phantom Limb are one of the hottest new bands in the UK.

She said: "We were all jobbing musicians and at Christmas 2004 we booked studio time to record tunes for fun.

"We had such a good time it was natural to keep playing together."

But when drummer Ian Matthews left - to join Kasabian - they went more acoustic.

Yolanda said: "People said, 'Wow, this is off the hook...we like your acoustic sound even more'.

"Musically, we're all about mixing country and soul music so playing acoustically seemed more dynamic."

I say forget Amy Winehouse or Joss Stone - if you want to hear the best new soul voice in UK it's Yolanda's.

She said: "My vocal influences are Aretha Franklin, Etta James and Ike and Tina Turner. They're all such strong starting points if you're a singer."

"I always knew our debut album would be good but I was shocked and in awe to hear just how well it turned out."

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