Amythyst Kiah’s commanding stage presence is matched by her raw and powerful vocals—a deeply moving, hypnotic sound that stirs echoes of a distant and restless past. Accompanied interchangeably with banjo, acoustic guitar or a full band, her eclectic influences span decades, finding inspiration in old time music, alternative rock, folk, country and blues. Provocative and fierce, Amythyst’s ability to cross boundaries is groundbreaking and simply unforgettable.
Our Native Daughters, her recent collaboration with Rhiannon Giddens, Leyla McCalla and Allison Russell (Birds of Chicago), has delivered a full-length album produced by Rhiannon Giddens and Dirk Powell, “Songs of Our Native Daughters” (out now on Smithsonian Folkways). NPR described the opening track, “Black Myself,” written by Amythyst, as “the simmering defiance of self-respect in the face of racism.” Most recently, the group has been nominated for Duo/Group of the Year at the 2019 Americana Honors & Awards.
Alexa Rose was born in the Alleghany Highlands of western Virginia, raised in the tiny railroad town of Clifton Forge. Though no one her immediate family played or sang, she inherited a deep musical legacy.
“Growing up I would hear stories of my great-grandfather Alvy who, for a time, lived and played with [bluegrass great] Lester Flatt when they were both young men,” says Rose. “Apparently, Lester tried to get him to move to Nashville and pursue a career. But my great-grandfather decided to stay in the mountains with his wife on their farm.”
“There are so many musicians where I’m from, people who just play on their porch or in some local bar — and they’re amazing. They don’t do it commercially, that’s not the essence of what they do. There’s a deep connection between their sense of place and the music they make. That’s what really inspires me about the musical culture in the South and the mountains, especially.”
That visceral connection is at the core of Rose’s debut album, “Medicine for Living” (Big Legal Mess). A stunning ten-track effort, it finds the 25-year-old singer-songwriter bringing a wellspring of tradition to bear on an enlivening collection of contemporary roots songs.