All music worth listening to reveals more about itself with repeat listens, and sometimes our interpretation of it changes with time and our own growth. This is true for albums that lay out what they’re about as though they had a sandwich board for cover art, and it’s doubly so for albums full of intriguing nooks, crannies, and mysteries that are as fun to get lost in as they are to unravel.
That slow reveal is just one of the things to love about the dark, gritty music of Nashville singer-songwriter Adia Victoria. Her recent third album, A Southern Gothic, was produced by T Bone Burnett, and it feels at times more approachable than her previous material—there’s even a straightforward, made-for-radio blues cut, “You Was Born to Die,” featuring guest vocals by Kyshona Armstrong and Margo Price and guitar by Jason Isbell. But Victoria remains most compelling when she’s spinning dusky tales about heartbreak and revenge (“Mean-Hearted Woman”), women who defy society’s standards (“South for the Winter”), and open secrets that people only share in whispers (“Whole World Knows”).
The slinky “Troubled Mind” grapples with spirituality and salvation after a life of sin, inflamed by a devilish blues-rock guitar solo from Victoria’s creative partner, multi-instrumentalist Mason Hickman. Victoria permeates her songwriting with her identity as a Black southern woman, and it’s clearer and stronger than ever on A Southern Gothic. On the acoustic-guitar-driven “Deep Water Blues,” she upends the stereotype of Black women as steel-spined caretakers who always put others’ needs before their own: “Now it’s been too many times I been put in a place / To have to wipe up a mess a white man made,” she sings. “Like my grandmama did and her mama did too / So I’ll be awful glad to get me clean of you.”
Atlantic released A Southern Gothic on September 17.
With its duality of ghostly yarns and righteous self-empowerment, A Southern Gothic couldn’t have come out at a better time—right at the start of fall, so you can curl up by a fireplace while you enjoy it with a glass of red wine or bourbon.
The Listener is a weekly sampling of music Reader staffers love. Absolutely anything goes, and you can reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org.