Home Read Albums Of The Week: Allison Russell | The Returner

Albums Of The Week: Allison Russell | The Returner

Bolstered by a female-centric circle of VIPs and fuelled by defiant joy, the ascendant singer-songwriter grooves her way into the big leagues with this upbeat charmer.


THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE: “Four-time Grammy-nominated singer, songwriter, poet and multi-instrumentalist Allison Russell’s new album The Returner was written and co-produced by Allison along with dim star (her partner JT Nero and Drew Lindsay) and recorded over Solstice week in December 2022 at Henson Recording Studios in Los Angeles. It features Russell’s Rainbow Coalition band of all female musicians along with special guest appearances from the legendary Wendy & Lisa, Brandi Carlile, Brandy Clark and Hozier.

“My goal with The Returner — sonically, poetically, and spiritually — is a radical reclamation of the present tense, a real time union of body, mind, and soul,” Russell says. “This album is a much deeper articulation of rhythm, groove, and syncopation. Groove as it heralds the self back into the body, groove as it celebrates sensual and sexual agency and flowering, groove as an urgent call to action and political activism.

“In just a word, it’s funkier. But as is the history of anything funky, it’s never just a party. It is a multiverse of energies that merges the celebration and the battle cry. For while an embrace of the present tense is a celebration, it is equally an unquestioning leap into battle — cultural, political, environmental.”

Since the release of her debut solo LP Outside Child two years ago, Russell’s often devastating, deeply moving, cathartic celebration of survivor’s joy has become one of the most acclaimed albums of the past 10 years. Now comes the second chapter in herstory, The Returner, a body-shaking, mind-expanding, soulful expression of liberation, love and self-respect that serves as a fierce declaration of joy for all survivors that have made it to the other side.

Photo by Dana Trippe.

Allison, JT, and Drew built The Returner from the bottom up with a rhythm-first, genre-fluid approach. The improvisational energy of great female artists sparked the album’s fierce joy, and provided a wider canvas for Allison’s immense, unlimited talent. In all, the new album doesn’t just deliver on the promise of the last two years, it exceeds all reasonable (and unreasonable) expectations and affirms Russell’s place among music’s most vital artists ⎯ and The Returner as one of 2023’s most essential recordings.

Russell has spent her career in multiple bands, including Po’ Girl, Our Native Daughters and Birds of Chicago. After a career spent as a gifted multi-instrumentalist, backing numerous other artists, she finally dared to release her solo project Outside Child in 2021. Following the album’s release, Russell performed on Jimmy Kimmel Live!, Ellen, Late Night With Stephen Colbert, CBS Saturday Morning, Austin City Limits, The Kelly Clarkson Show, made her Opry debut, appeared at the Country Music Hall of Fame and performed at the 2022 Grammys Premiere Ceremony.

The accolades for Russell have been immense. In addition to her four Grammy nominations, she has earned three 2022 Americana Award nominations and a win for Album of the Year, two International Folk Music Award wins, a 2022 Juno nomination for Songwriter of the Year, and her first Juno win for Contemporary Roots Album of the Year. Russell received two 2021 Americana Awards nominations, won three Canadian Folk Music Awards, two UK Americana Music Awards and more. She was recently nominated for Song of the Year and Artist of the Year for the 2023 Americana Awards. In addition, Russell has consistently used her newfound platform to elevate, educate and inspire; curating the history making Once And Future Sounds: Roots and Revolution set for the Newport Folk Festival in 2021 and mobilizing this year’s triumphant Love Rising All-Star benefit concert in support of LGBTQIA+ causes in Nashville — raising over $550,000 and calling national attention to Tennessee’s dangerous anti/trans and anti/drag laws. Russell has also announced a book deal with Flatiron/MacMillan for her debut novel, a memoir based on her life and the material that inspired Outside Child and The Returner.”

Watch my video interview with Alison Russell HERE.


Photo by Dana Trippe.


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