Joyful is a collection of twelve bittersweet tracks filled with all of Ayo's various experiences and the people she's encountered along the way. It's her way of paying tribute to her father, her "reference," and her mother, her "muse." Two other influences helped her set the tone of this album, which very well could have been recorded some 35 years ago. Firstly, there's mentor Donny Hathaway, "a singer who goes beyond words to really make you understand what he's singing. He held such a powerful emotional force! Such a deep spirit that it still makes me cry...It was written over thirty years ago, but it still rings true." Her other reference is Jimmy Cliff. "It has to do with my dad's vinyls. Whenever I hear "The Harder They Come," I think about him and his life." The Jamaican musician taught her the art of story-telling, the desire to share stories and spin tales without compromising her aesthetic demands...Because more than anything else, that's what Ayo speaks about with her music.
On Joyful, she strives to naturally and sincerely share her stories and touch others, boosted solely by her life experience and her dreams. "Down On My Knees" rests upon a cool reggae rhythm, a simple folk melody and an elegant production with a voice that is 100% soul singing, crying out its love, nothing more. "If people interpret something else, hidden between the lines, by all means, they're free to do so," Ayo insinuates. With Hispanic undertones and a hint of Caribbean spice "And It's Supposed To Be Love," Ayo's only cover is taken from the repertoire of jazz singer Abbey Lincoln. Straightaway, "Help Is Coming" has the rhythmic style that contrasts its emotional nature. And when Ayo takes the mike, so discreetly, her language seems harsher, direct, with a hint of rock between the lines of this ballad that verges on reggae.
"Down On My Knees" Video
Down On My Knees
And It's Supposed To Be Love
Help Is Coming
"What's different is Ayo's voice. It's high, thin and light; I'm telling you it's like no one else's." — The New York Times
"...Next to [Corinne Bailey] Rae, the raw touch Ayo brings to 'Down On My Knees' and 'Help Is Coming' make Joyful a rougher, tougher, ultimately happier experience." — Word Magazine