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Amythyst Kiah - Wary + Strange Music Album Reviews

Amythyst Kiah - Wary + Strange Music Album Reviews
An intensely personal document, the Tennessee singer and guitarist’s third album examines the realities of being a Southern Black LGBTQ+ woman in songs both defiant and vulnerable.

Tennessee guitarist and singer Amythyst Kiah won’t be constrained by anyone’s expectations. “Don’t wanna hear your soapbox speech,” she declares on “Soapbox,” the opening song of her third album, Wary + Strange. “Don’t wanna hear how you would do it.” Kiah’s independent spirit, vast talent, and musical savvy yield dazzling results on this, her Rounder debut: Wary + Strange is a rock album that doesn’t play by anyone’s rules but her own.

Kiah, a guitarist with a powerful wail, marries country blues with widescreen production and unexpected touches—wheezing bass harmonica at the core of “Fancy Drones (Fracture Me),” spectral backing vocals hovering above “Sleeping Queen.” She steers the journey with her commanding bellow, which is only made stronger by her courage to express the doubt and longing lurking beneath.

Kiah closed her self-released 2013 debut, Dig, with a stripped-down cover of Radiohead’s “Fake Plastic Trees” that showcased the range of her voice and tender playing. It was also a nod to the alt rock that helped inspire her to pick up the guitar as a teenager. She went on to study music at East Tennessee State University, immersing herself in that school’s Bluegrass, Old-Time, and Country Music Studies program. Eventually, her knowledge of vintage American music and dexterity on the guitar led her to become a member of Our Native Daughters, a string-band supergroup assembled by Rhiannon Giddens in 2018.

When Kiah met music industry lifer Tony Berg (Phoebe Bridgers’ Punisher, Aimee Mann’s Whatever), she had been working on the songs that would make up Wary + Strange for so long she’d recorded them twice. During a session in early 2020, Berg reimagined “Fancy Drones (Fracture Me),” adding a bass harmonica, as well as flute and Mellotron, to its country-blues framework. That led Kiah to plunge into recording the album once more, this time with Berg on hand as producer.

Kiah’s instincts proved correct, and Wary + Strange is a testament to her following them. The modern protest song “Black Myself” is already part of Kiah’s catalog; it was included on Our Native Daughters’ 2019 debut, Songs of Our Native Daughters, where it garnered a Grammy nomination. That recording was a swaying take on the song that spotlighted the quartet’s vocal harmonies, punctuated by an accordion solo. On Wary and Strange, “Black Myself” announces itself with pinging, shimmering guitar riffs; while both versions have fire, the new one possesses extra swagger. “I’ll stand my ground and smile in your face/’Cause I’m Black myself,” sings Kiah defiantly, her voice soaring.

An intensely personal document, Wary + Strange examines the realities of being a Southern Black LGBTQ+ woman in songs that groove and tremble as they tell their stories. “Wild Turkey” mourns Kiah’s mother, who drowned in the Tennessee River when Kiah was a teenager, while also mourning Kiah’s emotional shutdown in the wake of the loss. It opens with fingerpicked guitar echoing the late-night thoughts that Kiah, now 34, keeps turning over; the music swells into a maelstrom of thundering drums and droning strings as her voice gains power and fire. When Kiah asks, “Oh Lord, will I ever feel right again?,” the song breaks open in a surfeit of complex emotions.

Wary + Strange flies by like a far-reaching conversation. Kiah displays a keen knowledge of how songs can electrify the air, and a talent for channeling murky emotions and regret-warped ruminations into succinct, pointed lyrics. “Ballad of Lost” stretches its heartbreak over five minutes, but the song’s spare arrangement and deliberate pacing convey all the shock of the split second when she glimpsed a lover with another woman. A slide guitar scatters teardrops over the landscape as she digs into her pain on the verses; “I am lost/Maybe I have always been,” she muses on the chorus, the sort of clarifying moment that only anguish can bring.

Wary + Strange ends by revisiting “Soapbox”; this new version possesses a slightly quicker pulse, just enough to kick up its sense of self-assurance. Now that Kiah has proven to listeners the full extent of what she can do, she’s here to remind them again that she doesn’t need anyone’s help. “My professional career has been a progression of me figuring myself out,” Kiah recently told Billboard. Wary + Strange proves just how revelatory that process has been, for Kiah and her listeners alike.
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About Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera

Hey, I'm Perera! I will try to give you technology reviews(mobile,gadgets,smart watch & other technology things), Automobiles, News and entertainment for built up your knowledge.
Amythyst Kiah - Wary + Strange Music Album Reviews Amythyst Kiah - Wary + Strange Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on Tuesday, June 29, 2021 Rating: 5

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