Adia Victoria, “Beyond the Bloodhounds”

Adia VictoriaAdia_Victoria-2016-Beyond_the_Bloodhounds
Beyond the Bloodhounds
CANVASBACK/ATLANTIC
5/10

Floating through like a field recording buried in the dust of the Smokies if only it weren’t so immediate in its sharp commanding breaths, “Lonely Avenue” opens Adia Victoria’s full-length debut with a warm whisper in the ear that slyly turns into a tongue before the dirty driving Black Keys homage “Dead Eyes” barrels into the room like a wildcat. If only more of this genre-exercise of an album stood fast on the light, ethereal sound of that opener.

Which isn’t to say that Victoria fully squanders that opening shot of good will. “Mortimer’s Blues,” which comes a bit later, is a multi-part stunner: the first section is all Ronettes on a lazy Sunday until the knots of a seedy guitar line pull the tune into a confessional indie-rock corner, only to be pulled away by a bluesy Chicago groove of a coda that delivers on the song’s finger-wagging swagger. “Sea of Sand” flirts with late-era Nirvana while Victoria’s elastic vowels recall any number of the 1990s’ earnest, earthy singer-songwriters. The track works, though, building and swooning as it swings for a dark-hearted College Radio DJ and lands a fat one on the chin.

It’s not until later that Bloodhounds loses its mojo. The back half of the record offers more consistent gloom that approaches laborious levels. “Stuck in the South” relies too heavily on cliché and Victoria winds up playing the Obvious Blues, and despite lyrics like “make the neighbors drink turpentine,” “Head Rot” has little more than scuzz on its bones. You want her to break free, and she does, thankfully, with the hazy, sleepwalking closer “Mexico Blues.

“You go your way, and I’ll go mine—it’s fine, it’s fine, it’s fine,” she sings, sounding as if she’s physically walking away. For a talent such as this, the path forward can lead pretty much wherever she wants, but for now, she might need a better map.

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