CARYVILLE, TN (WLAF) – Bluesy, alt-country powerhouse Amythyst Kiah is this year’s headliner at the Louie Bluie festival, which takes place at Cove Lake State Park in Caryville on Sat., Sept. 28.
The festival honors Howard “Louie Bluie” Armstrong, who was a multi-talented musician from Lafollette. This music and arts festival aims to bring together some of the strongest talent in the region.
Kiah, who hails from Johnson City, reaches deep into the past with her soulful voice and nostalgic melodies. She regularly tours the United Kingdom and has performed at Celtic Connections, Southern Fried Festival, Cambridge Folk Festival, the Edinburgh Jazz & Blues Festival, and SummerTyne Americana Festival.
She has opened for artists like the Indigo Girls, Rhiannon Giddens, Dom Flemons, Old Crow Medicine Show, First Aid Kit, Darrell Scott, and Tim O’Brien.
Self-described as Southern Gothic, Kiah is a true Southern up-and-coming folk music icon.
She first began playing guitar when her mother purchased one for her at the age of 13.
“I taught myself alternative music and took classical guitar for a year in high school,” she said. “Then, years later in my early 20s, I would study traditional music, music performance, and studio recording at East Tennessee State University in Johnson City,” Kiah said.
She said she spent most of her formative years playing guitar, reading novels, watching films and attempting to write songs.
“It was in the oneness with solitude that I was able to explore music in an unfiltered way, with little interruption,” she said. “This focus would lead me to exert that same amount of energy into studying and performing traditional music.”
Her background was largely alternative and world music at that point, and so she approached traditional music in a way that was authentic to her. As a fan of early Tori Amos, Radiohead and classical guitar techniques, she was able to approach the material of the Carter Family, Rev. Gary Davis, Vera Hall with a different take on songs.
“That would inspire me to write songs of my own with more confidence,” she said.
She got connected in the UK through Andy Shearer, a Scottish music promoter and director of the Southern Fried Festival in Perth, Scotland. He read an album review of the song “Dig” on an AfroPunk blog, according to Kiah, and saw the semi-viral video performance of the “Darling Cory” and invited her to perform at a Dolly Parton tribute night.
“After that, he offered his services as a booking agent in the UK and the rest of Europe,” she said, “and so for the past several years I have gone to the UK at least once a year, and I absolutely love it,” she said.
She is most inspired by Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Big Mama Thornton, Carolina Chocolate Drops, Tori Amos, Bjork, Radiohead, the Carter Family and Nina Simone.
“I am truly honored to be part of a celebration of a man’s legacy that is quite unmatched,” she said of her performance at the Louie Bluie Festival.
“Louie Bluie” Armstrong was an artist, a storyteller and a writer who played fiddle, mandolin and guitar.
His entire family was musically gifted. Armstrong was the recipient of the 1990 National Heritage Fellowship awarded by the National Endowment for the Arts and played at Carnegie Hall.
This festival celebrates Armstrong’s contribution to the arts and encourages musicians and artists to hone their own talents. There will be five stages at this year’s festival, and music will float throughout the park the entire day.
The 2019 Louie Bluie Music & Arts Festival is funded, in part, by the Tennessee Arts Commission through the General Assembly, Campbell County Commission, Powell-Clinch Utility District, Town of Caryville, City of LaFollette, Campbell County Chamber of Commerce, LaFollette Eye Clinic, and LaFollette Utilities.
Additional festival information is available at LouieBluie.org. For information about the Campbell Culture Coalition, visit www.campbellculturecoalition.org.