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Amythyst Kiah|Wary + Strange

Wary + Strange

Amythyst Kiah

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The second full-length album from Tennessee native Amythyst Kiah opens with a pretty clear, tone-setting statement: "Don't wanna hear your soapbox speech … You can keep your sophistry/ Save my brain from atrophy/ I have my own hand that feeds," she huskily declares on "Soapbox." The song inevitably reminds you of Tracey Chapman—so does "Firewater," its melody as delicate as a flowing creek—as well as Tori Amos and Brittany Howard's solo work: women who effortlessly exude both power and tenderness. Kiah knows how to wield music like a paintbrush or, perhaps, virtual reality. "Hangover Blues" sounds like the rattling noise and low-down heavy fog that pervades your head after a night of too much everything, its nagging guitar a sharp shooting pain. The effect is hypnotizing. "Opaque," which has a Lauryn Hill feel to it, is about finding out someone you love isn't who you first saw them as. Kiah wields instrumentation as clever punctuation: "Your veneer of perfect grace/ Was just a mouse's masquerade … Just like that"—dum dum dum—"she washed away." It's like the moment in a mystery novel when the surprise villain is unveiled. Lovely and bittersweet "Wild Turkey" opens so quietly then swells with a rising tide of emotion. The track is about Kiah's mother, who drowned in the Tennessee River when the singer was 17, and it's like audibly working through the stages of grief. She offers up precise introspection on the gorgeous country heartbreaker "Ballad of Lost," about spotting a lover with another woman. As pedal steel sighs and Amy Ray (Indigo Girls) harmonizes, Kiah weighs the truth: "I believe that I can forgive/ Can I forget?/ Never." There's also intensely personal reckoning of her relationship with alcohol, on "Wild Turkey" and "Hangover Blues," but also the haunting "Tender Organs," which ponders the wisdom of using it as a numbing agent. The stark blues shift to an uneasy breakdown that cracks into an insistent guitar wail, and you feel the emotion behind her realization: "The hands that healed me/ Now they're rotten." Producer Tony Berg, who has a history of working with smart singer-songwriters (Aimee Mann, Michael Penn, Edie Brickell, Phoebe Bridgers) knows how to add light to the shade, relying on the bullfrog croaks of a bass harmonica to buoy the country-blues lament "Fancy Drones (Fracture Me)" and its warning against finding purpose in workaholism. And Kiah revives her protest song "Black Myself"—previously recorded with the trad-folk supergroup Our Native Daughters, including Rhiannon Giddens— by reinforcing the old-time string version with stomping blues rock that matches the ugliness of quieter racism: "I pick the banjo up and they sneer at me/ 'Cause I'm black myself/ You better lock your doors when I walk by/ 'Cause I'm black myself/ You look me in my eyes but you don't see me/ 'Cause I'm black myself." It is, literally, devastatingly beautiful. © Shelly Ridenour/Qobuz

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Wary + Strange

Amythyst Kiah

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1
Soapbox
00:01:36

Bob Ludwig, Mastering Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Tony Berg, Producer, Acoustic Guitar, Recording Producer, AssociatedPerformer - Julian Dreyer, Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Amythyst Kiah, Producer, Guitar, Executive Producer, Vocals, MainArtist, AssociatedPerformer, ComposerLyricist - Will Maclellan, Mixer, Recording Engineer, StudioPersonnel

℗ 2021 Rounder Records.

2
Black Myself
00:03:21

Wendy Melvoin, Bass Guitar, AssociatedPerformer - Bob Ludwig, Mastering Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Tony Berg, Producer, Piano, Samples, Recording Producer, AssociatedPerformer - Blake Mills, Guitar, Electric Guitar, AssociatedPerformer - Gabe Noel, Upright Bass, AssociatedPerformer - Kane Ritchotte, Drums, Percussion, AssociatedPerformer - Amythyst Kiah, Producer, Acoustic Guitar, Executive Producer, Vocals, MainArtist, AssociatedPerformer, ComposerLyricist - Will Maclellan, Producer, Recording Engineer, Recording Producer, StudioPersonnel

℗ 2021 Rounder Records.

3
Wild Turkey
00:04:32

Bob Ludwig, Mastering Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Patrick Warren, Keyboards, Strings, AssociatedPerformer - Tony Berg, Producer, Banjo, Acoustic Guitar, Bass Guitar, Recording Producer, AssociatedPerformer - Ethan Gruska, Mellotron, Samples, Celesta, AssociatedPerformer - Gabe Noel, Bass Guitar, AssociatedPerformer - Julian Dreyer, Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Kane Ritchotte, Drums, AssociatedPerformer - Patrick Taylor, Guitar, AssociatedPerformer - Amythyst Kiah, Producer, Executive Producer, Vocals, MainArtist, AssociatedPerformer, ComposerLyricist - Will Maclellan, Mixer, Recording Engineer, StudioPersonnel

℗ 2021 Rounder Records.

4
Hangover Blues
00:04:04

Bob Ludwig, Mastering Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Tony Berg, Producer, Keyboards, Recording Producer, AssociatedPerformer - Blake Mills, Guitar, AssociatedPerformer - Gabe Noel, Bass Guitar, AssociatedPerformer - Julian Dreyer, Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Kane Ritchotte, Drums, Clapping, AssociatedPerformer - Jamie Dick, Percussion, AssociatedPerformer - Grant Dermody, Harmonica, AssociatedPerformer - Amythyst Kiah, Producer, Acoustic Guitar, Executive Producer, Vocals, Clapping, MainArtist, AssociatedPerformer, ComposerLyricist - Will Maclellan, Mixer, Recording Engineer, Guitar Loops, AssociatedPerformer, StudioPersonnel - Elijah Welles, Clapping, AssociatedPerformer

℗ 2021 Rounder Records.

5
Fancy Drones (Fracture Me)
00:03:37

Bob Ludwig, Mastering Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Tony Berg, Producer, Harmonica, Mellotron, Recording Producer, AssociatedPerformer - Julian Dreyer, Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Kane Ritchotte, Drums, AssociatedPerformer - Patrick Taylor, ComposerLyricist - Amythyst Kiah, Producer, Guitar, Executive Producer, Vocals, MainArtist, AssociatedPerformer, ComposerLyricist - Will Maclellan, Mixer, Recording Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Taylor Green, ComposerLyricist - Andrew Gibbens, ComposerLyricist

℗ 2021 Rounder Records.

6
Firewater
00:03:39

Bob Ludwig, Mastering Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Patrick Warren, Keyboards, Strings, AssociatedPerformer - Tony Berg, Producer, Recording Producer - Julian Dreyer, Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Kane Ritchotte, Percussion, AssociatedPerformer - Amythyst Kiah, Producer, Acoustic Guitar, Executive Producer, Vocals, MainArtist, AssociatedPerformer, ComposerLyricist - Will Maclellan, Mixer, Recording Engineer, StudioPersonnel

℗ 2021 Rounder Records.

7
Tender Organs
00:04:45

Bob Ludwig, Mastering Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Tony Berg, Producer, Guitar, Recording Producer, AssociatedPerformer - Ethan Gruska, Keyboards, Organ, Samples, AssociatedPerformer - Julian Dreyer, Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Kane Ritchotte, Drums, Percussion, AssociatedPerformer - Patrick Taylor, Guitar, AssociatedPerformer - Ben Sollee, Cello, AssociatedPerformer - Amythyst Kiah, Producer, Executive Producer, Vocals, MainArtist, AssociatedPerformer, ComposerLyricist - Will Maclellan, Mixer, Bass Guitar, Recording Engineer, AssociatedPerformer, StudioPersonnel - Kyle Snuffer, Horn, AssociatedPerformer - Erin Dalton, String Arranger, AssociatedPerformer - Nicole Misterly, Violin, AssociatedPerformer

℗ 2021 Rounder Records.

8
Ballad Of Lost
00:05:14

Amy Ray, Background Vocalist, AssociatedPerformer - Bob Ludwig, Mastering Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Tony Berg, Producer, Recording Producer - Ethan Gruska, Piano, AssociatedPerformer - Gabe Noel, Bass Guitar, AssociatedPerformer - Julian Dreyer, Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Rich Hinman, Pedal Steel, AssociatedPerformer - Amythyst Kiah, Producer, Guitar, Executive Producer, Vocals, MainArtist, AssociatedPerformer, ComposerLyricist - Will Maclellan, Mixer, Recording Engineer, StudioPersonnel

℗ 2021 Rounder Records.

9
Sleeping Queen
00:03:51

Bob Ludwig, Mastering Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Patrick Warren, Mellotron, AssociatedPerformer - Tony Berg, Producer, Electric Guitar, Organ, Mellotron, Recording Producer, AssociatedPerformer - Gabe Noel, Bass Guitar, AssociatedPerformer - Julian Dreyer, Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Kane Ritchotte, Drums, Percussion, AssociatedPerformer - Ben Sollee, Cello, AssociatedPerformer - Amythyst Kiah, Producer, Executive Producer, Vocals, MainArtist, AssociatedPerformer, ComposerLyricist - Will Maclellan, Mixer, Recording Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Daniel Ellsworth, Keyboards, AssociatedPerformer - Kyle Snuffer, Horn, AssociatedPerformer - Taylor Green, Piano, AssociatedPerformer - Erin Dalton, String Arranger, AssociatedPerformer - Nicole Misterly, Violin, AssociatedPerformer

℗ 2021 Rounder Records.

10
Opaque
00:03:47

Wendy Melvoin, Bass Guitar, AssociatedPerformer - Bob Ludwig, Mastering Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Tony Berg, Producer, Recording Producer - Ethan Gruska, Clavichord, Samples, AssociatedPerformer - Julian Dreyer, Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Kane Ritchotte, Drums, Percussion, AssociatedPerformer - Amythyst Kiah, Producer, Guitar, Executive Producer, Vocals, MainArtist, AssociatedPerformer, ComposerLyricist - Will Maclellan, Mixer, Recording Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Daniel Ellsworth, Keyboards, AssociatedPerformer - Taylor Green, Organ, AssociatedPerformer

℗ 2021 Rounder Records.

11
Soapbox (Reprise)
00:02:35

Bob Ludwig, Mastering Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Tony Berg, Producer, Drums, Acoustic Guitar, Percussion, Piano, Recording Producer, AssociatedPerformer - Julian Dreyer, Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Ben Sollee, Cello, AssociatedPerformer - Amythyst Kiah, Producer, Executive Producer, Vocals, MainArtist, AssociatedPerformer, ComposerLyricist - Will Maclellan, Mixer, Recording Engineer, StudioPersonnel - Erin Dalton, String Arranger, Piano, AssociatedPerformer - Nicole Misterly, Violin, AssociatedPerformer

℗ 2021 Rounder Records.

Album Description

The second full-length album from Tennessee native Amythyst Kiah opens with a pretty clear, tone-setting statement: "Don't wanna hear your soapbox speech … You can keep your sophistry/ Save my brain from atrophy/ I have my own hand that feeds," she huskily declares on "Soapbox." The song inevitably reminds you of Tracey Chapman—so does "Firewater," its melody as delicate as a flowing creek—as well as Tori Amos and Brittany Howard's solo work: women who effortlessly exude both power and tenderness. Kiah knows how to wield music like a paintbrush or, perhaps, virtual reality. "Hangover Blues" sounds like the rattling noise and low-down heavy fog that pervades your head after a night of too much everything, its nagging guitar a sharp shooting pain. The effect is hypnotizing. "Opaque," which has a Lauryn Hill feel to it, is about finding out someone you love isn't who you first saw them as. Kiah wields instrumentation as clever punctuation: "Your veneer of perfect grace/ Was just a mouse's masquerade … Just like that"—dum dum dum—"she washed away." It's like the moment in a mystery novel when the surprise villain is unveiled. Lovely and bittersweet "Wild Turkey" opens so quietly then swells with a rising tide of emotion. The track is about Kiah's mother, who drowned in the Tennessee River when the singer was 17, and it's like audibly working through the stages of grief. She offers up precise introspection on the gorgeous country heartbreaker "Ballad of Lost," about spotting a lover with another woman. As pedal steel sighs and Amy Ray (Indigo Girls) harmonizes, Kiah weighs the truth: "I believe that I can forgive/ Can I forget?/ Never." There's also intensely personal reckoning of her relationship with alcohol, on "Wild Turkey" and "Hangover Blues," but also the haunting "Tender Organs," which ponders the wisdom of using it as a numbing agent. The stark blues shift to an uneasy breakdown that cracks into an insistent guitar wail, and you feel the emotion behind her realization: "The hands that healed me/ Now they're rotten." Producer Tony Berg, who has a history of working with smart singer-songwriters (Aimee Mann, Michael Penn, Edie Brickell, Phoebe Bridgers) knows how to add light to the shade, relying on the bullfrog croaks of a bass harmonica to buoy the country-blues lament "Fancy Drones (Fracture Me)" and its warning against finding purpose in workaholism. And Kiah revives her protest song "Black Myself"—previously recorded with the trad-folk supergroup Our Native Daughters, including Rhiannon Giddens— by reinforcing the old-time string version with stomping blues rock that matches the ugliness of quieter racism: "I pick the banjo up and they sneer at me/ 'Cause I'm black myself/ You better lock your doors when I walk by/ 'Cause I'm black myself/ You look me in my eyes but you don't see me/ 'Cause I'm black myself." It is, literally, devastatingly beautiful. © Shelly Ridenour/Qobuz

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