LAYLA KAYLIF – Lovers Don’t Meet (Canopus)

Lovers Don't MeetBorn in Dubai, based in London, the British Emirati singer-songwriter nudged the bottom end of the UK top 100 back in 1999 with the single ‘Shakespeare In Love’ but Lovers Don’t Meet is her first album in twelve years. Americana with a pop inclination and folk shadings, recorded in Nashville and featuring a clutch of Music City’s seasoned session players it comes with a strong literary influence, opening with the midtempo waltzing looking for love song title track (“Lovers don’t finally meet somewhere. They’re in each other all along”) lyrically inspired by 13th century Persian poet Rumi, as indeed is the subsequent piano ballad ‘99’ (“There’s 99 names for love and there’s 99 names for God”) another song about entwined destinies.

From Persia it moves to Syria with the gently loping strummalong ‘As I Am’, where she asks “broken as I am can you really love me”, in which the line “Your love is like birth like death/Mystical and extreme impossible to repeat” paraphrases Love by the late Nizar Qabbani, but also lifts the line “Who will not change a raven for a dove?” from Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream while the mention of slings and arrows in the sunny country jog of ‘Don’t You Know Me Yet’ inevitably calls Hamlet to mind, a song that also musically tips the hat to Ms Parton.

For more obviously, built round acoustic guitar and keys, the 60s pop tinged ‘Let Me Count The Ways’ is an adaptation of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Sonnet 43, ‘How Do I Love Thee?’ and also serves as the theme song to The Letter Writer, a 60s romantic drama that marks Kaylif’s directorial debut.

As far as I can tell the remaining two numbers don’t require a background in international literature, ‘Mario’ (her husband, producer and video director Mario Calcagni) being a solid swaying strummed farming imagery (“He’s the wheat to my fallow and the seed to my vine”) love song from a wife to her husband founded on a mandolin backdrop, and, by way of a musical shift to brushed drums, organ and Ben Owens’ guitar solo, ‘One Man Loved Me’(“with my light and my shadow too”) evincing a sort of Stonesy country-soul feel. Less a comeback, more of a glorious rebirth.

Mike Davies

Artist’s website:

’99’ – live: