Adia Victoria maintains that her new album, A Southern Gothic, is an act of reclamation. She takes back all that belongs to her and her kindred, in race, in culture, in gender, in every part of her identity that has traditionally been shunted aside by a fearful, hateful dominant culture. The album’s title is inspired by her browsing the Southern Literature section in a Nashville bookstore and noting with dismay that not a single Black author was shelved there. Motivated, Victoria decided she needed to assert herself and bring a whole battalion on the similarly thwarted along with her.
The last single released in advance of the album is “You Was Born to Die,” a cover of a blues standard most strongly associated with Blind Willie McTell. The lyrics are brutal, describing a man’s heartbroken anger at a woman he suspects is cheating on him. The title of the song is a warning of what she has coming to her. Victoria purposefully sticks to the original words, recruiting Margo Price and Kyshona Armstrong to share vocal duties with a powerful intent.
“I asked Kyshona and Margo Price to join me in the blueswoman work of singing herself beyond the regard of their men,” Victoria explains.
Every second of this track simmers with confident fury. Jason Isbell also guests, and his guitar work is sinewy and pure. It’s those interlaced voices, though, that do the heavy lifting on the cut. They’re as strong and daunting as a snarl of barbed wire. In its compact certainty, Victoria’s version of “You Was Born to Die” delivers a nose-bloodying upper cut to the status quo.