Album Review: Kyshona, ‘Legacy’

Others live in our bones, and we often spend our lives trying to understand their presence and how it has shaped us. Generations before leave little traces of their attitudes about love and life, and we strive to identify those squiggly lines that root us to places and character. On her stirring new album Legacy, Kyshona searches out the legacy—of her family, of her home place, of her name—that her ancestors have bequeathed to her with eloquent soul.

The album opens with the spiraling vocals of the spacious, atmospheric jazz folk “Elephants,” written with Shannon La Brie, an elegant circle of sound that conveys the movement of bodies through shadows and light. Shimmering layers of Wurlitzer lie under the swirling, escalating vocals of “The Echo,” written with Caroline Spence, an ethereal testimony to the resonating presence of the generations of individuals who reverberate through our lives.

Ruthie Foster, Odessa Settles, and Chris Pierce join Kyshona on the swampy blues-inflected spiritual “Waitin’ on the Lawd,” written with Crys Matthews; the chorus rides on the sonic structure of the gospel tune “Wade on the Water.” Ellen Angelico’s piercing lead guitar lines in “Whispers in the Walls,” written with ZG Smith and Kathryn Rosewood, evoke the mysterious voices that live within our dwelling places and that animate the spirit of those places. Following an interlude of a tape of her grandfather H.T. Armstrong and the Church Elders singing “Heaven is a Beautiful Place,” Kyshona leads her own choir of relatives—Kelvin Armstrong, Natasha Armstrong, Bettye Armstrong, Nolanie Armstrong, Kelvin Armstrong Jr., Kaylen Armstrong—in singing the moving gospel call and response number that her grandfather wrote.

Wailing horns lift the joyous “Where I Started From,” a Memphis soul stew that glides exuberantly on the grooves of love. The party starts as soon as the saxes blare on the song’s opening note and usher in a Carolina beach tune that’s perfect for dancing the night away. Crunchy guitars usher in the funky jump blues ode to Kyshona’s home state South Carolina on “Carolina,” featuring Keb’ Mo’. Her home place is deep in her bones, and she longs to return there, despite the deeply flawed nature of the state: “Carolina take me home/I don’t care what all went wrong/I still belong to you.”

Kyshona inhabits these songs in the same way she dwells in the spirits of her legacy, and they in her. She transports her listeners, and herself, on this journey to the nooks and crannies of legacy, and it shines brightly through her soaring vocals.


 Legacy is available HERE


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