eeing Allison Russell live makes it clear how Americana is the only genre category that can approximately encompass this singer/songwriter's eclectic talent. She opened her debut Troubadour performance by playing clarinet along with her all-female, interracial band.
Yes, much of her music touched upon gospel/blues roots, exemplified by the call-and-response vocals applied through "All Of The Women" from her critically acclaimed "Outside Child" album, but these roots are also filtered through a Montreal, Canadian-raised artist, which gives her a unique perspective – to put it mildly. Although Russell's album explores some of her most painful life experiences, she nevertheless consistently radiated joy while performing her songs for this sold-out show.
Most of Russell's setlist was drawn from "Outside Child," but she also sang a few songs from her Our Native Daughters' group release, including the family roots exploration with "Quasheba, Quasheba," and the encouraging "You're Not Alone."
Russell is a soulful, expressive singer who puts her whole body into singing songs. She stood at the front of the stage often, connecting directly with her fans. She even apologized to one child there for using a potty word in "Joyful Motherfuckers."
Russell was accompanied by a fiddler, a keyboardist, an electric bassist, an acoustic guitarist and a percussionist. She also accompanied herself on banjo often. Russell many times sang in French, as well as English throughout the evening. Although emotional, Russell's lyrics for songs like "Poison Arrow" are also consistently poetic. She knows well how to transform painful experiences into expressive, creative art.
Russell took a moment to congratulate her colleague and collaborator Brandi Carlile, who had been nominated for seven Grammy Awards earlier in the day. She also talked about how growing up with an abusive stepfather had permanently shaped her worldview. Her between song talks helped give her music more context and never interrupted the overall flow of the concert.
Toward the end of "The Runner," Russell sang, "Can't stop me now/Can't steal my joy," and her overall disposition this night revealed how this artist's hard-won joy can never be taken away.