If Tori Amos had been a feral child, she might have sounded a bit like Kristeen Young. Like Amos, Young has a broad vocal range and a fondness for exploring the upper register, and embraces the piano as her musical instrument, but there's a wildly aggressive emotional energy in her songs, as well as an intelligently transgressive mindset that marks Young as a true original. Born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri, Young was sired by parents of Apache and German descent, and adopted at an early age by a couple who had embraced Christian fundamentalism. Young's strict parents strove to keep her away from what they deemed corrupting influences, but as a youngster she developed a passionate interest in music, and after graduating from high school, she attended St. Louis' Webster University, where she studied piano. After completing her education, Young began performing with the bands November 9th and Water Works. While playing in the latter group, Young hit upon the idea of performing in a duo with just piano and drums, and after teaming with drummer Jeff White, she recorded her first solo album, 1997's Meet Miss Young and Her All Boy Band, which was dominated by Young's direct, powerful piano style and White's percussion.
In 1999, Young released a second album, Enemy, and in 2001 she and White pulled up stakes and left St. Louis for New York City, where Young began developing a following for her powerful performances and sharply satiric viewpoint. In 2003, Young approached legendary producer Tony Visconti to produce her next project; Visconti was enthusiastic about her music, and was behind the controls for 2003's Breasticles (which featured a vocal cameo from David Bowie) and 2004's X (a concept album inspired by the Ten Commandments, which included guest vocals from Brian Molko of Placebo). Young's 2006 album, The Orphans, attracted the attention of another of Visconti's production clients, Morrissey, who invited her to join his world tour in support of Ringleader of the Tormentors as his opening act; he also signed her to his Attack label and released a pair of singles from Young, "Kill the Father" and "London Cry," in the latter part of the year. Again produced by Visconti, Music for Strippers, Hookers, and the Odd On-Looker followed in 2009, and V the Volcanic, a concept EP with songs written from the perspective of various film characters, was released in 2011. Longtime fan and first-time collaborator Dave Grohl contributed drums to all of and guitar to some of her explosive 2014 LP The Knife Shift, which also featured guitar performances by Visconti, Lou Rossi, and longtime Morrissey guitarist Boz Boorer. The album led to a fiery performance of the single "Pearl of a Girl" on The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson -- Young's U.S. TV debut -- where she was joined by Grohl, Grohl's former Nirvana and Foo Fighters bandmate Pat Smear, and bassist Megan X Thomas. ~ Mark Deming