Bad Ass Break-Outs: Amythyst Kiah

“Damn, this is great” I thought as I listened to “Wild Turkey” for the first time while driving across town. I added this latest single by Amythyst Kiah after seeing an announcement about it “liked” by Dave Hause on Twitter. A little round-about way of discovering a new artist, but I find that musicians always know the best music.

The track’s hushed, somber acoustic melody allows for Kiah’s deep, powerful baritone to take the lead, rolling through like a tidal wave of molasses, covering up a heat within it. The wistful lyrics also stood out, spinning a tail of regret and despair:

“When your soul dies, you just can’t hide. Everyone can tell. Oh lord, will I ever feel right again?”

Kiah’s early alt rock passions come to the forefront as the drums and electric guitars barrel in for the conclusion. The track was a stunner, and led me to dive into the rest of her catalogue when next home. Doing so confirmed that Amythyst Kiah will be one of the next break-out voices. Or certainly deserves to be.

Rolling Stone seems to feel the same way, as the magazine dubbed her one of “Americana’s great up-and-coming secrets”, most likely thanks to the powerful “Black Myself”. A growling blues rock statement about race, the track touches on the personal (“I pick the banjo up and they stare at me, cause I’m black myself”) to the universal (“You look me in the eyes, but you don’t see me”). Yet instead of being spiteful or sorrowful, Kiah packs the tune with grit and attitude, through both her voice and the full band arrangement.

While both of these tracks were released this year, previewing her Rounder Records debut, Kiah’s debut album Dig should not be overlooked. Released in 2013, the tracks here are more traditionally folk/Americana in arrangement, with Kiah on banjo or acoustic guitar. “Myth” has a timeless quality, fitting as Kiah sings of “time rolling on”, her voice marinated in wisdom and soil. Then there’s the simply haunting “Dark Holler”, where Kiah once again shows off her exquisite storytelling abilities over a fingerpicked melody. It would not be hard to go on and on about each song of hers.

Keep an eye and ear on Amythyst Kiah, and don’t be surprised if she takes 2021 by subtle storm. Get on the bandwagon now and listen to a few of her excellent tracks in our Bad Ass Break-Outs Playlist:

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