Album Review- Allison Russell – Outside Child

After the success of the Our Native Daughters project Allison Russell made the decision to release music under her own name for the first time. Outside Child is a personal and intimate project which Allison describes as being about ‘resilience, survival, transcendence, the redemptive power of art, community, connection and chosen family’. Many of the songs were written in response to her childhood trauma and by singing her wounds she finds healing and catharsis.

Montreal is dedicated to the city who sheltered her after she ran away from her abusive home as a teenager. You would not let me come to harm, she sings in appreciation. The chilling reality of what she left behind leaves these songs with an undercurrent of pain that radiates across time.

Persephone comes from a place of such suffering it takes your breath away. She finds escape with a girlfriend, experiencing a love that is a tender contrast with the violence of what she has endured at the hands of her adoptive father. On The Runner she acknowledges the fact that escaping from such a past is a continual struggle. She had to sing and bleed to get the truth and the poison out.

Nightflyer is a soulful song of transformation and release, inspired by a poem of female power (she recorded an absolutely stunning live version with Brandi Carlile and Brittney Spencer recently which you must watch).

The music on the album is a fusion of subtle folk, soul and on songs like 4th Day Prayer there is also a gospel feel. On this song she tells of her shocking childhood, connecting to historical stories of suffering.

On The Hunters she asks ‘why?’ those people who were supposed to care for her became the orchestrators of her abuse. The answers are impossible to find. She looks for those who have endured similar pain on All of the Women. By telling their stories she offers only empathy for the shared struggle.

Final song Joyful Motherfuckers offers a message of hopeful defiance towards her abuser. You will find no bitterness on any of the songs here, which is an inspiring miracle in itself.

Some griefs are not like our own, few can ever understand the reality of what horrors others endure. But we can learn from those who have been there, find the wisdom in their vulnerability and strength. On Outside Child Allison Russell offers us her songs, her story, her spirit and she soars.


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