So much beauty born of so much pain. On Allison Russell’s first solo album – Outside Child – she sings stories about her harrowing teenage years in Montreal – poverty, homelessness and abuse at the hands of her stepfather. “I'm the wounded bird, I'm the screaming hawk, I'm the one who can't be counted out,” she declares in her song Nightflyer. Horrific? Yes. Life affirming? Absolutely! Russell’s voice goes from silky whisper to jazzy croon to R&B roar, always front and centre to envelop you into her poetic depiction of trauma and redemption. Her subtly perfect sound is full of acoustic folk, country and bluesy sensibilities. The melodies hurt and then uplift in all the right places.
Before stepping out with this personal chronicle, Russell already established herself in a variety of musical partnerships as a stellar vocalist and multi-instrumentalist. She was a key voice in the duos Po’ Girl and Birds of Chicago, as well as in the ground-breaking quartet of African American women, Our Native Daughters. The singer, songwriter-poet describes herself as a “Scottish Canadian Grenadian, a mixed heritage, queer, Black woman living in Nashville.” Outside Child has launched Russell’s solo career to new heights, with an armload of Grammy and Juno Awards nominations, placement on several best-of-2021-album lists (#2 in the New York Times), and musical appearances on Colbert and Kimmel.
Biography by Eric Rosenbaum