REVIEW: Adia Victoria – A Southern Gothic

As soon as I read Adia’s music style on Spotify described as “spins dark-hued tales of life in the deep south” I knew I would connect with her sound. She’s blues, she’s country, and she’s folk, but sultry and gritty. Some of her early musical influences were artists like The Cure and Kurt Cobain which you can feel coming through in her own unique style. Some of her songs would not be out of place on a True Blood soundtrack. Which for me is a win.

The first song on her new album A Southern Gothic is ‘Magnolia Blues’. On the first few listens, I wasn’t taken with it (I must be the only one). I felt it lacked lustre and perhaps wasn’t the best gateway to the album for me. HOWEVER, this song has become a firm favourite, an invasive earworm and one I regularly sing at my unfortunately-situated 13 year old. What was my problem you ask? I don’t know. But I’m over it now. I like the subtle banjos in the background and the harmonica style vocals, the beautiful blues guitar holds it all up and the visuals of the barefooted Adia under a magnolia tree is lovely.

Adia is bloody good at choruses isn’t she? Every song falls into a catchy and often seductive chorus. As I continue to replay the album, each song seeps further into my skin and I feel infused with it.

‘Mean Hearted Woman’, well, THIS was the hook for me. It had that perfect blues beginning where it sets the scene. You hear the first words of a story and you KNOW there is a belting chorus coming. Adia builds the story with soft and clear vocals, you feel for this poor jilted girl, then BAM, that chorus kicks in. Adia’s voice goes darker and calls to mind eerie Beth Gibbons vocals. Her persona changes from heartbroken innocent to vengeful prowling lioness and I love the layer of threat she works to instil in the guilty party.

If you’ve ever been scorned, you’ll agree that lyrics like “I got it in me to burst into flames, let the whole world burn, let the ashes rain” feel so visceral. I think of poets like Carol Anne Duffy and see Adia’s background in poetry shine through. As she mouths the words it adds texture, color and allure to the depth.

This is one of the strongest tracks on the album for me, despite it not being one of the obvious choices currently promoted all over the internet.

I’m going against the grain here but, ‘You Was Born To Die’: skip it. It doesn’t fit with the style of the album, I didn’t feel like it was in keeping with Adia’s own unique flow, despite the lyrical content being about rubbish boyfriends. The song as a standalone is good, and Kyshona Armstrong is an imposing and established vocalist. However, Adia’s voice doesn’t fit this song quite right and it doesn’t seem to fit her style either. I know it’s popular and who doesn’t love a collab, but no.

‘Whole World Knows’ reminded me of the Cranberries, with a pinch of Suzanne Vega. The song starts off with almost uplifting guitar and then the bass kicks in adding a darker undertone complimenting Adia’s silky voice. The lyrics unfold a story that draws you in and paints a picture of this rebellious southern girl defying everyone and shocking a religious community with her uncouth actions. It precedes another very strong piece on the album called ‘Troubled Mind’, where Adia uses a little more vocal manipulation and goes a little more sinister from the viewpoint of the ‘troubled mind’. Some bloody great guitar solos on here too: oof, gives me tingles.

‘My Oh My’ is beautiful, and one of my favourite songs on the album. The collab with Stone Jack Jones is perfect. He adds such a ghostly quality to the song and has a lovely southern lilt. Plus the banjo is strong in this one.

‘Please Come Down’ is magical and makes me want to weep. It has an Ellie Goulding quality to it vocally. ‘Far From Dixie’ is gorgeous too… Ah the whole album is a treat! If only I had more wordage to tell you.

Sometimes you listen to a band and you notice the melody as the strongest element of the song. You find yourself humming it upon waking or doing a mundane task – it sticks. Other times you hear the words and they feel powerful, sad or profound, provoking deep contemplation. This album does both.

With A Southern Gothic, you find yourself taken in by the lyrics, ensconced in the stories, but also unashamedly and rhythmically swaying and singing wherever you are, whatever you are doing to Adia’s totally unique sound.

Words by Tam Greaves

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