Layla Zoe’s fourteenth album, The World Could Change, is one of contrasts, showcasing her sweeping range in both vocal expression and lyrical themes. Born in Victoria, the Canadian artist has won and been nominated for a slew of awards in North America and Europe, including Best Vocalist at the 2016 European Blues Awards. Now living in Germany, she teamed up for this recording with German multi-instrumentalist and singer Henrik Freischlader, who produced it. The bedrock of organ was provided by Moritz Fuhrhop, with Freischlader on every other instrument, most notably guitar. 

Zoe wrote all the lyrics on the album, and Freischlader composed the music. Zoe’s subjects encompass hope, intrigue and darkness. Most memorable, though, is her exceptional voice and its versatility, as she pivots from soft to rough, tender to vicious.

Zoe takes off in full steam in “Dark Heart,” a hefty rock number with snarling vocals accompanied by pulsing guitar. “Honey Pie” highlights the broad reach of her voice, beginning smooth as molasses, ramping up the intensity, then breaking off to speak the lyrics. She slows down with the introspective jewel, “Praying Kind.” Zoe’s singing is serene and lustrous here, the backing saturated with organ and exquisite guitar. In the title track her ferocious, fiery vocals are exhilarating, enhanced by Freischlader’s rousing playing. His searing introduction sets the scene for Zoe’s growling, menacing voice and sinister lyrics in “The Man Behind the Curtain.” 

Zoe reveals her vulnerable side as she transitions to a delivery that is intimate and velvety in “Brother,” supported by elegant guitar, then jolts us into raging rock with raw, formidable vocals and savage, distorted guitar in “Watch What You’re Doing.” In contrast, “The Truth Song” is an emotive, optimistic ballad voiced with resolution and passion. Her singing is ethereal in “Baby Bird,” tastefully interspersed with mellow guitar, then “Jasmine” returns us to driving rock with Zoe sounding fierce and unyielding. In “We’re the Same,” her vocals are gentle, yet expressive, with Freischlader’s playing depicting a melancholy mood. The album concludes with “Shine Brightly,” sung with delicacy and luminosity, backed only by acoustic guitar. 

The World Could Change demonstrates Zoe’s multifaceted talent as a vocal dynamo, unrestrained in her ability to convey whatever a song requires. This is an artist and an album well worth checking out. (Sandra B. Tooze)