Adia Victoria | A Southern Gothic | Atlantic Records
On her third stunner of an album, A Southern Gothic, Adia Victoria finds herself reckoning with her southern heritage and her identity as a Black woman. Within this album, Victoria cements her place as a Southern Gothic troubadour making space for herself in the traditionally white space. These themes have long been at the heart of her work, from her debut, 2016’s Beyond The Bloodhounds in tracks such as ‘Stuck In The South’, to 2020’s explicitly political single ‘South’s Gotta Change’ in response to that year’s uprising in the wake of the murder of George Floyd, as well as the South’s own reckoning with its Confederate past. Now, Adia Victoria has returned to her complicated roots in a place that is at once home and a landscape of alienation.
Album opener ‘Magnolia Blues’ instantly puts down roots beneath the shade of the magnolia tree outside her mother’s house. There were moments during the pandemic when she would reminisce of the one she grew up with, “There were times when I would feel blocked when I was writing, and I would just go outside and put my hands in the dirt underneath the magnolia, just cover them in dirt, and then immediately feel re-centered,” Victoria told Rolling Stone.
Like some of the best Southern Gothic authors, Victoria’s album features a cast of characters with an intimate connection to their southern environment. ‘Mean-Hearted Woman’ is a dirty old blues track that revels in the raw spite of the spurned protagonist. While in ‘Whole World Knows’, the young addicted woman shooting up in her daddy’s car while he is preaching in church is a troubled soul who knows full well that she is the family disappointment, speaking to being under the constant scrutiny of the church gaze. Her characters are complex, and not afraid to show their ugly, messy sides.
Like all good Southern Gothic tales, the South itself is an omniscient character in its own right. In ‘Far From Dixie’, Victoria declares: “I got you in my bones no matter where I roam.” While ‘Deep Water Blues’ speaks of generational trauma from decades of lives spent in servitude to white people. It is here that Victoria takes a stance on not giving up her own personhood for anyone’s benefit, breaking the bonds of servitude as the levees break.
In ‘South For The Winter’ – featuring Matt Berninger of The National, the tone is ethereal as it tells the story of a lost girl with an urge to return to the south after a time spent in New York City. “Seems any city can make you a ghost,” the narrator ruminates. Feeling alienated by the NYC cold, the decision to make the voyage south is made, however fraught the decision may be. However, the voyage south is only for the winter – a hesitant compromise.
When envisioning southern authors, the names of prominent white authors come to mind, as writers such as Alice Walker for example are omitted. Musically as well as literarily, Black Southerners are systematically left out of the conversation, and in A Southern Gothic Adia Victoria makes space for BIPOC, which is long overdue.
In A Southern Gothic, Adia Victoria reckons with the South as a Black woman with deep roots in the land. There is a pervasive theme of being drawn back to the uncomfortable familiarity of one’s roots, but staying wary of being consumed by them.
Call & Response - Adia Victoria's podcast that draws upon the blues tradition of communal music making and listening.