Artists come to music via various paths, and that’s part of what makes music so interesting. Kyshona Armstrong is an artist who started writing music when she was a therapist. Maybe you’ve never had a session with a music therapist. However, with the new album Listen (produced by Andrija Tokic), you don’t need an appointment to enjoy the benefits of her time as a music therapist.
The intro to “Listen” is groovy and soulful with some backing vocals by Christina Harrison and Maureen Murphy that are somewhere on the soul-gospel scale. It’s a mellow tone which stand in direct contrast to the confrontation of the opening lyrics, “Why ya gotta interrupt when I’m not done talkin’? I need you to keep it shut. This ain’t up for discussion.” As the song progresses, the melody has some similarities to Portishead – especially in the rhythm section (Ryan Madora on bass and Derrek Phillips on drums).
“Too Much” is a song that grabs the attention. It has the feel of a Tedeschi Trucks Band song – especially with the organ by Michael B. Hicks. The layers of sound envelop you. The energy is consistent throughout the song, and like a song by Tedeschi Trucks Band, it just makes you feel good.
“We the People” is something of a protest song in the spirit of Curtis Mayfield. The melody is driven by the piano, and Ellen Angelico’s guitar part brings the sort of psychedelic soul you expect from a Curtis Mayfield tune. The lyrics throughout the song are powerful, but it hits especially hard when she sings, “We turned in toil, left our blood soaked in the soil. They left our bodies to burn.”
That’s not the only social commentary on the album. In “Fallen People”, Armstrong sings about how we can point the finger at the government or at each other, and she wonders when we’ll come together. Along a similar line is the call to action in “Marching On.” The melody is reminiscent of Booker T, and the message ultimately is one of hope to find the good things and keep marching on even though the road is long.
From one song to the next, it becomes pretty obvious that Armstrong was influenced by singers like Sam Cooke, who were not afraid to inject some meaningful messages into their soulful tunes. The melodies are catchy, but it’s the lyrics that really grab the attention on this album. Armstrong sings with the undeniable spirit and conviction that was more common in the tumultuous 60s. However, through all the turmoil of the times, the message is ultimately one of hope that leaves you believing things will get better. Listen will be available everywhere on February 28. Order your copy here.