By James Barker, Staff Writer
Content Warning: This article discusses suicide.
On Friday, Amythyst Kiah announced the title and release date of her upcoming album, Wary + Strange, coming out on June 18. She also released the new song “Wild Turkey” and on first listen, I was transfixed. Written about Kiah’s mother’s suicide, “Wild Turkey” is a heartbreaking meditation on grief that is beautifully poetic as well as being viscerally raw.
The verses carry the lyrical narrative of Kiah’s memories (“Wild Turkey in the car seat”) that convey a sense of trying to come to terms with a tragic reality: “She’s never coming back.” These lines also show Kiah expressing understanding and empathy for her mother (“I hope it gave her some relief”) as well as helping her to accept that her mother’s suicide was not about her mother abandoning her.
The chorus gives the song just the right amount of pace as Kiah lets us into her grieving: the denial, feeling “numb” and the sense of emptiness “When your soul dies, you just can’t hide it.” This is honest, poignant country songwriting of the finest quality.
“Wild Turkey” is an evolution of Kiah’s sound, combining her folk and Americana roots with a full sonic production, supported by keyboards and strings, that builds towards the end of the song. The song plays its loud and quiet moments well, reflecting the different emotions involved in grief. Yet the song feels cathartic to listen to.
On both new recordings, “Black Myself” and “Wild Turkey,” released ahead of the new album, Kiah has demonstrated the versatility of her songwriting and powerful voice across a fresh and innovative sound. If all of Wary + Strange is of this quality, then the full album can’t come soon enough.