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With 'Magnolia Blues,' Adia Victoria Reclaims Her Southern Identity

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Our friends at NPR Music are always on the lookout for great new songs.

(SOUNDBITE OF ADIA VICTORIA SONG, "MAGNOLIA BLUES")

KELLY: So they're bringing us some of their favorites, starting with a song called "Magnolia Blues" by Adia Victoria. Here's NPR's Ann Powers.

(SOUNDBITE OF ADIA VICTORIA SONG, "MAGNOLIA BLUES")

ANN POWERS, BYLINE: When "Magnolia Blues" begins, you know, it sort of creeps up on you, as the blues often does - that bass line, that circular chord structure. And in comes Adia's voice...

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MAGNOLIA BLUES")

ADIA VICTORIA: (Singing) I followed you into the blue and north into the cold.

POWERS: ...Which is delicate, but also, you know, full of a kind of courage, a kind of awareness of menace. That's all in the mix in her voice.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MAGNOLIA BLUES")

VICTORIA: (Singing) I gave you all my light, and I got naught to show for it.

POWERS: And what she's singing about is being taken away from the South, led away from the South by a love affair - a love affair with a person, but maybe also with an idea of what she should be - and then now returning and claiming her heritage, claiming her place in a place that, you know, has rejected people like her, has done great violence to Black Americans like herself.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MAGNOLIA BLUES")

VICTORIA: (Singing) I'm going back South, down to Carolina. I'm going to plant myself under a magnolia.

POWERS: I love the metaphor of the magnolia tree that she uses in this song because, of course, it evokes the most horrific history of violence against Black Americans, the history of lynching. But she is also claiming her right to sit under that tree, her own right to the land, to the dirt, as she calls it in this song. And it's a welcoming into her journey, and I cannot wait to hear the rest of the record and see where she takes us.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MAGNOLIA BLUES")

VICTORIA: (Singing) Oh, it's something in the air tonight, something in the air tonight.

KELLY: NPR Music's Ann Powers talking about "Magnolia Blues" by Adia Victoria. Her new album, "A Southern Gothic," is out in September. And there are many more new songs on the Now Playing blog. That's at npr.org.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MAGNOLIA BLUES")

VICTORIA: (Singing) Oh, it's something in the air tonight... Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.