Cool Adia

Adia Victoria’s debut album, Beyond the Bloodhounds, arrives with a poet’s message and a true artist’s spirit

click to enlarge After building a following on the road, Adia Victoria’s first album comes out May 13.
After building a following on the road, Adia Victoria’s first album comes out May 13.

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dia Victoria has been working toward this year and this particular moment in her life for a good many years. Victoria was born in Spartanburg, S.C., raised in a severe Seventh Day Adventist home, and then spent her 20s on a global walkabout to Atlanta, Paris, Germany and New York before settling in Nashville, Tenn. and actively pursuing the musical path that has finally resulted in her imminent and excellent debut album, Beyond the Bloodhounds.

Victoria’s musical direction is an amalgam of Rock, Soul, Gospel, Country and Pop, with elements of each bubbling to the surface as needed to reinforce the message she’s imparting and the atmosphere she’s trying to create on each individual song.

Like the five blind men describing an elephant based on the wildly divergent body part they’re each feeling, Bloodhounds can’t be pinned down based on the spare few tracks that have been advanced so far, one of which is the harrowing Rock swing of “Dead Eyes.”

“Like each song on the album, (‘Dead Eyes’) is its own little snapshot of the whole picture the album paints,” says the singer/songwriter/guitarist in a recent e-mail exchange. “I’ve taken several parts of my personality and circumstances around that character trait and turned it into a song. Just like a person, one part can’t describe the whole.”

Another highlight track on Bloodhounds — the title is a reference to a line from Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl by Harriet Jacobs — is “Stuck in the South,” which has been posted around the internet for some time.


Victoria notes that it may stand as one of the album’s more important statements.

“‘Stuck in the South’ gives the album a sort of physicality, a reference point,” she says. “I like to think of it as the scenic backdrop for everything else happening on the album. It roots it all in a way.”

Victoria has been working on Beyond the Bloodhounds for the better part of the last three years with her band — guitarist Mason Hickman, bassist Jason Harris, keyboardist Alex Caress and drummer Tiffany Minton — and the effort definitely shows.

The slower songs flow like warm molasses and the rockers hit with the impact of three fingers of top-shelf whiskey. And sometimes, like on the moody and muscular “And Then You Die,” Victoria and her hellhound band achieve both sensations within a single composition.

Co-produced by renowned boardsman Roger Moutenot and Victoria herself, Beyond the Bloodhounds — which is being released on Canvasback Music, also the label home of alt-J, Frightened Rabbit and Grouplove — scorches and soothes in equal measures, a musical good cop/bad cop evocation of finding and losing love and the confusing and frustrating search for identity in a world that doesn’t necessarily facilitate the hunt.

On one level, part of Bloodhounds’ identity is Victoria’s exploration of her place in the experience of black women in the American South.

Although she has cited at least some of her work on her debut album as her conceptual take on inhabiting the mindset of a “mad black woman antagonist” that has come to be considered an archetype for Blues songs over the decades, she rejects the idea that there is any single such experience.

“I don’t think there is a mold and it would be limiting to try to fit the (Southern black woman’s) experience into one,” Victoria says. “We are beautifully and messily manifold.”

Beyond the Bloodhounds is also the musical evidence of Victoria’s life struggles throughout her 20s as she fought to maintain a tenuous hold on her artist’s existence. She has the requisite long resume of retail and restaurant jobs that every musician has to endure on the way to fulfilling and expanding their artistic ambitions, and that desultory commitment to her soul’s expression is inherent in every note and syllable of her songs.

Whatever Victoria is doing, she’s been getting noticed in a big way. She’s been building a fervent fan base in and around Nashville — she was tapped as the opening act for Nashville heroes Those Darlins’ farewell hometown show — and with the posting of a spare few tracks on the internet, Victoria has attracted the attention of (among others) NPR, American Songwriter and Rolling Stone, who last year cited her as one of the Top 10 artists to watch.

That’s the kind of advance notice that can get into a new artist’s head and screw up the wiring, but Victoria gives no credence to it.

“I don’t ask for the recognition,” she says. “It has no relation to the art that I make or how I live. There’s a pretty emphatic divorce between the two for me.”

Beyond the Bloodhounds is bound to be considered for best-of-the-year honors at the end of 2016, and the book on Victoria at this point is that the studio versions of her visceral and incendiary songs are great but her stage translations are even better.

She has generated a press kit full of impressive notices for her work around Nashville and the wider world has gone so far as to compare to her Alabama Shakes’ Brittany Howard and Kurt Cobain.

Her response to the appropriateness of that particular comparison reveals just how grounded in reality she remains.

“Not according to my bank account,” she says with what one hopes is a wry smile.

Her current “Me & the Devil” tour and the early May release of Beyond the Bloodhounds could change her balance and her circumstances rather significantly.


ADIA VICTORIA plays a free show Wednesday at MOTR Pub. More info: motrpub.com.


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