The global pandemic has pushed most people out of their comfort zones and in the case of singer/guitarist Ghalia Volt’s One Woman Band, it’s a good thing. The album is a garage-y collection of tunes that rocks like something out of the 1950s.
The album title is literal. Volt handles vocals, guitar, and drums, all at the same time (although there are two tracks with bass from Dean Zucchero and Monster Mike Welch helps out with some guitar on “Evil Thoughts”). Volt began her career busking in Belgium, so she’s capable of performing alone, but this is the first time she’s recording as her own rhythm section. The beauty of the album is the freshness that comes from jumping into something new. Volt is a solid drummer, especially when you factor in that she’s belting out the vocals while handling the guitar, but it doesn’t sound the same as someone else playing. There are subtle tempo lags and shifts that inject tracks with excitement.
The energy comes from the boldness of Volt’s experiment. Drumming is hard for anyone. Drumming while accompanying yourself vocally and on guitar is next-level difficult. And then when you factor in it’s not her usual way of operating? It’s like watching a circus performer on a tightrope without a net. The tracks where the drums threaten to fall out of sync with the rest of the song are riveting, which sounds like a criticism, but is a strong, sincere compliment. Too many artists are afraid of imperfection and paint over the small blemishes, where Volt recognizes them as the true beauty of the track. No one listens to Robert Johnson for the production. It’s the songwriting, performance, and moment he’s locked into that grabs us.
And to clarify, Volt’s drumming is solid and professional. She just leaves in moments that many other artists would have re-done. In that sense, this sounds like a live album, where there’s no going back. For instance, on “Loving Me is a Full Time Job,” Volt starts with her voice and chorus-twinkling guitar, transitioning the song through a bluesy dirge, before kicking in her own drums, moving the track into a 50s bounce. But the drums hang back a bit, rather than propelling the song. It sounds punk rock and classic blues, all at the same time. Factor in Volt’s voice, which provides a lighter counterpoint, with its hint of a blues howl, and you have a song that works in several different time periods.
Volt is a strong songwriter, but her cover of “It Hurts Me Too” is special. Her electric guitar provides the song’s low-end until her slide comes in, mirroring the sadness of her vocals. And that’s all there is: electric guitar and voice making the song sound huge and complete. The beauty of the cover is how Volt locks into the spirit of previous versions, not rocking it, but simplifying the song all the way down to its essence. I’m a huge Elmore James fan and while he didn’t write it, he’s strongly associated with the song. I’m protective of anyone horning in on James’ territory, but this version passes my test.
Who knows if Volt would have come to this album under different circumstances? But I’m glad she did. It’s a bold move from an artist committed to getting her music out, even if it means becoming her own band. Eventually, Volt will be able to return to band-oriented recording but I hope she keeps the one-person band in her musical arsenal, at the very least for a few tracks per album.
The Review: 8.5/10
Can’t Miss Tracks
– It Hurts Me Too
– Meet Me In My Dreams
– Just One More Time
– Loving Me is a Full Time Job
The Big Hit
– Loving Me is a Full Time Job