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Southern Songs and Stories: The Sonic and Existential Transformation of Amythyst Kiah

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When people talk about artists like Aretha Franklin, St. Vincent, Paul Brady and Sam Cooke, they tend to talk about these artists’ best known work, their music that came after their formative years. For Aretha Franklin and Sam Cooke, her Columbia Records sides and his time in The Soul Stirrers tend to get glossed over. For the casual fan, who remembers that St. Vincent got her start in The Polyphonic Spree, or that Paul Brady once was known as a Celtic artist? In the years to come, look for a similar phenomenon with Amythyst Kiah.

This is not to minimize the work she has already released, which includes two fine records of songs ranging from covers of classics like “Grinnin’ In Your Face” to her own originals like “Fake Plastic Trees”, and of course her award-winning stint in the roots music supergroup Our Native Daughters. Those are all well worth celebrating, but in the long run they just might be considered the prologue to a much larger story. Five or ten years from now, most people that hear the name Amythyst Kiah may likely think of her forthcoming album Wary + Strange as the launching point of her career.

 

Songs heard in this episode:

“Darlin’ Corey” by Amythyst Kiah from Dig, excerpt

“Trouble So Hard” by Amythyst Kiah from Amythyst Kiah & Her Chest Of Glass, excerpt

“Black Myself” by Amythyst Kiah from Wary + Strange

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Joe Kendrick grew up far off in the woods at in rural Stanfield, NC, where he acquired his first Sony Walkman, listened to both AM and FM radio from Charlotte, went to Nascar races at Charlotte Motor Speedway, attended a small Baptist church, read Rolling Stone, subscribed to cassette clubs, and played one very forgettable season of high school football. From there, Joe studied Journalism at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he was able to fulfill his dream of being a disc jockey at WXYC. He volunteered at WNCW soon after graduation.