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Kiah heats up

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, July 10, 2019

Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz

Other recent concert reviews
Amythyst Kiah's music career has seemingly been a slow burn, but that well could be changing. She was part of the quartet that put out the very fine "Songs of Our Native Daughters" earlier this year and is about to launch a tour with CD-mates Rhiannon Giddens, Allison Russell of Birds of Chicago and Leyla McCalla to bring out songs about racism, sexism and slavery.

But before that happens, Kiah has found time for her own career. With a few hundred people in tow with some likely because of Our Native Daughters and others just because summer courtyard concerts at the Museum of Fine Arts have been well curated and presented over the years, Kiah made her first ever gig in Boston an unqualified success.

Kiah is at times soulful singer with blues a key component of her sound. She threw in a bit of country, old time, folk and rock (a nice cover of Radiohead's "Fake Plastic Trees") as well. If you felt like she was channeling Nina Simone or Tracey Chapman, you would not be far off the mark.

Kiah unveiled a bunch of songs that she said would be on an album (as yet unrecorded, but titled "Wary and Strange") that would be out in 2020. She also reached back into her own two-CD catalogue, while playing a few songs from Our Native Daughters with the revved-up single "Black Like Me" a particular standout with her earnest vocals on a song that she said was much different than anything else she had penned. Maybe so, but good thing she went with it because she sang with a lot of urgency.

Kiah's soulful vocals served her well. . Ending the night with the traditional "Will the Circle Be Unbroken" only underscored that.

Playing acoustic guitar and banjo, Kiah was accompanied by a drummer and keyboardist with the former setting a steady, sometimes forceful beat on the more rocking numbers and the latter coloring the songs and adding occasional backing vocals.

Low key but with a warmth about her, Kiah, a Johnson City, Tenn. resident, was sufficiently seasoned when it came to stage banter, explaining a few of the songs and clearly enjoying the moment.

There's no doubt about it that Kiah's musical life is heating up. It's not particularly easy presenting yourself to a crowd largely unfamiliar with you or your material, but Kiah did her best to ensure that the crowd would depart most satisfied.