Music Review: Amythyst Kiah’s Wildebeest

Some songs just stop you in your tracks. “Wildebeest” by Amythyst Kiah is one of those songs. The tune begins with a two chord progression usually heard in flamenco music – a simple and raw meditative riff that Kiah lets play for a minute for full hypnotic effect.  When the tune shifts into a Delta blues mode, the fine finger-picking starts to have an emotional life, setting the stage for Amythyst Kiah’s original yet traditional blues lyric of spurned love, homicidal threats, bittersweet memory, and loss. The vocals are reminiscent of the smooth voiced blues singers of the 90s – like Tracy Chapman or Robert Cray – who sought inspiration from an earlier blues era – but with a little added bite. And when the blues are done, and Kiah tells the spurned lover to go find someone else to prey upon, the song shifts back into the flamenco style, ending without resolving the chord progression. All this is to say that the American blues is alive and well in Johnson City, Tennessee. Footnote: I discovered this song because I entered the NPR TIny Desk Concert Contest. A contest I have no chance of winning because of Amythyst Kiah and a dozen other crazy talented musicians. So I concede. Amythyst deserves the spotlight.


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