ALLISON RUSSELL RELEASES ‘THE RETURNER’

Allison Russell - The Returner

OUT TODAY ON FANTASY RECORDS

TO APPEAR ON CBS SATURDAY MORNING TOMORROW – SATURDAY, SEPT 9TH

“It was only a matter of time before she made her album for the ages. The Returner is that album.” – UNCUT (9 out of 10) 

“‘The Returner’ is a full-bore emancipation proclamation. In just two short years, Russell has emerged as one of our most important voices, and The Returner further projects her voice and career.” – GLIDE

“Allison Russell’s second solo album brings to mind a verse from the Bible: ‘Weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.’ After reflecting on her escape from abuse on her 2021 breakout, Outside Child, Russell is celebrating her freedom on The Returner. The album has its heavy moments, but it’s largely brighter — and funkier.” – VULTURE

“With its increased twin focus on grooves and celebration, it might not be inaccurate to call the album a party, albeit with the understanding that the celebration is a hard-fought party.” – VARIETY

“On her second album, The Returner, she delivers a sequel that holds togetherness at its heart as she delves into the personal and political.”  – THE LINE OF BEST FIT 

“That same hope permeates the buoyant rhythm of The Returner and continues pushing Russell forward in pursuit of joy.”  – EXCLAIM! (Canada)

“The Returner, another powerful effort, also represents a next step in Russell’s career and life as she leaves her trauma in the past and steps forward in what she calls “fierce joy.” – POLLSTAR

“It takes a village to make deep, meaningful change in the world around you, and Russell is ready to build that village from the ground up.” – BILLBOARD

4x GRAMMY-nominated singer, songwriter, poet, activist, and multi-instrumentalist Allison Russell has released her highly anticipated new album, The Returner via Fantasy Records. Listen to the album HERE. Russell will return to CBS Saturday Morning tomorrow to play songs from the new album.

Previously, Russell shared four songs from The Returner, the title track, “Stay Right Here,”“Demons,” and “Snakelife.” Russell has also announced a major U.S. headlining tour. The shows kick off October 13th at The Ark in Ann Arbor, MI and wrap up in January of 2024. Highlights include The El Rey Theatre in Los Angeles on November 1st, Music Hall of Williamsburg in Brooklyn on November 30th, and The Basement East in Russell’s adopted hometown of Nashville on January 11th. Prior to the headlining dates she’ll appear at Bristol Rhythm & Roots Festival, FreshGrass Festival, Farm Aid, XPoNential Music Festival and more. This week she has also announced an appearance at Stagecoach and will support Tyler Childers on his US arena tour. Tickets are on sale now. Full tour dates below.

The Returner was written and co-produced by Allison along with dim star (her partner JT Nero and Drew Lindsay) and was recorded over Solstice week in December 2022 at Henson Recording Studios in Los Angeles, CA. It features Russell’s “Rainbow Coalition” ensemble: Elenna Canlas, Elizabeth Pupo-Walker, Ganessa James, Joy Clark, Kerenza Peacock, Larissa Maestro, Mandy Fer (Sway Wild), Megan Coleman, Meg McCormick , SistaStrings (Chauntee & Monique Ross) , Wendy & Lisa (Wendy Melvoin & Lisa Coleman aka The Revolution) and Wiktoria Bialic.

Since the release of her debut solo LP two years ago, Outside Child, 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, 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. 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 Allison Russell’s place among music’s most vital artists¾and The Returner, as one of 2023’s most essential recordings.

Following a diverse career as a featured member of acclaimed bands including Po’ Girl, Birds of Chicago and Our Native Daughters, Russell finally dared to release her solo project in 2021. “It’s an album of strength and affirmation, not victimization,” said The New York Times in their profile on Russell and Outside Child. 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 and appeared at the Country Music Hall of Fame and performed at the 2022 GRAMMY’s 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-ever Juno Award 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.

Tour Dates:
* -Supporting Tyler Childers
Sept 09 – Bristol Rhythm & Roots Festival – Bristol, TN
Sept 15 – Harvest Music Festival – Fredericton, CANADA
Sept 16 – CityFolk Festival in Ottawa, CANADA
Sept 22 – FreshGrass Festival – North Adams, MA
Sept 23 – Farm Aid – Noblesville, IN
Sept 24 – XPoNential Music Festival – Camden, NJ
Oct 13 – The Ark – Ann Arbor, MI
Oct 19 – Terminal West – Atlanta, GA
Oct 20 – Princess Theatre – Decatur, AL
Oct 21 – Toulouse Theatre – New Orleans, LA
Oct 25 – 3TEN ACL Live – Austin, TX
Oct 28 – The Lensic – Santa Fe, NM
Oct 29 – MIM Music Theater – Phoenix, AZ
Nov 01 – El Rey Theatre – Los Angeles, CA
Nov 03 – HopMonk Tavern – Novato, CA – SOLD OUT
Nov 04 – Sweetwater – Mill Valley, CA – SOLD OUT
Nov 05 – The Center for the Arts – Grass Valley, CA
Nov 07 – Hult Center for the Performing Arts – Eugene, OR
Nov 09 – Mississippi Studios – Portland, OR – SOLD OUT
Nov 10 – Admiral Theatre – Bremerton, WA
Nov 11 – Tractor Tavern – Seattle, WA – SOLD OUT
Nov 13 – The State Room – Salt Lake City, UT
Nov 15 – Boulder Theater – Boulder, CO
Nov 16 – Bluebird Theater – Denver, CO
Nov 17 – Roaring Fork Sessions – Aspen, CO
Nov 29 – World Cafe Live – Philadelphia, PA
Nov 30 – Music Hall of Williamsburg – Brooklyn, NY
Dec 02 – Caramoor Center for Music and the Arts – Katonah, NY
Dec 03 – Infinity Hall Hartford – Hartford, CT
Dec 07 – The Sinclair – Cambridge, MA
Dec 08 – Portland House of Music – Portland, ME – SOLD OUT
Dec 09 – Levon Helm Studios – Woodstock, NY – SOLD OUT
Jan 11 – The Basement East – Nashville, TN
Jan 13 – Sheldon Theater – St. Louis, MO
Jan 14 – Thalia Hall – Chicago, IL
Jan 16 – St. Cecilia Music Center – Grand Rapids, MI
Apr 27 – STAGECOACH – Indio, CA
May 27 – CFG Bank Arena – Baltimore, MD*

Allison Russell Publicity Photo - The Returner - Photo credit: Dana Trippe

Photo Credit: Dana Trippe

The Returner – Track List:

  1.   Springtime
  2.   The Returner
  3.   All Without Within
  4.   Demons
  5.   Eve Was Black
  6.   Stay Right Here
  7.   Shadowlands
  8.   Rag Child
  9.   Snakelife
  10. Requiem

Notes on Allison Russell’s The Returner

By Hanif Abdurraqib

The book I loved most as a child was The People Could Fly, Virginia Hamilton’s book of black folktales about not only escape, but the brilliance of life beyond whatever was left behind. The cover, a group of black folks in colorful headscarves and tattered but well-fitting suits, ascending beyond the clouds, into a sky that was blue, and tilting towards orange. It is what some would consider to be a children’s book, or a book suited for a child’s imagination. But the child’s imagination is not far from where we, grown folks in an ever-burning atmosphere, return to. Another escape, if you will.

I believe Allison Russell to be a writer in many traditions, but I am now, upon sitting with the beauty of The Returner, considering Russell in the tradition of Virginia Hamilton. Hamilton, a black woman writer who understood the urgency of the times she was living in, and responded in an urgent fashion. Urgency, not in a sense of frantic output, or exhortations of chaos. But urgency in building a different version of events, and bringing as many people into the world as possible. Whoever wants to come along is welcome to come along.

While I hesitate to say that anything comes easy to a writer, but it does feel especially challenging to situate oneself in the present. The past is a place rich with both the fluorescence of nostalgia and the challenges of our own memory, and the future is, to some degree, unknown. Can be written by us as we tumble towards it. The Returner is an achievement for how it sits, firm and unflinching, in the present, or in a space that demands the present be something beyond simply discomfort. I take seriously the charge of song lyric-as-poetry, which is one way of saying that while I do like the idea of the lyric overrun with literary devices, it doesn’t do as much for me if the devices aren’t grounded in some kind of narrative blooming. Allison Russell is, in my mind, a writer’s writer. It is wonderful to read and apply what one loves about literature to the work of a song, but it is another thing to think of the song as a piece of literature, the two inextricably linked in both approach and execution. And so, a song like “Eve Was Black,” wherein the biblical callback goes a step further, channeling an origin story of rage, of dismissal, reformatting of a holy text to map it upon present tension.

On Outside Child, Russell’s heavily lauded 2021 debut solo effort, there was a reckoning with all that her past self made it through. It was a daring, brave album. One where the speaker in the songs is both child and survivor, looking back on the child’s life. And, still, for all of Outside Child’s bravery, The Returner rises to an equal challenge of brave ambition. After not only presenting that history of a self to the world, but untangling it on her own, Russell made an album that brings her back to her present self. One that delights in her present self. And album that is abundant in scope, in color (sonic color and vocal color, but also, very plainly, in its stunning album cover,) and abundant in possibility for a variety of next turns. I am overjoyed by the act of communal singing, and even more so when it just so happens to be black folks in communion doing the singing, shouting, clapping, stomping, and whatever else moves them to make noise. The Returner, for all of its gifts, is an album that feels like an invitation, the way walking by a loud, boisterous church service where the praise and worship spills out into the sidewalk might seem like an invitation, even if you aren’t the churchgoing type, but you just don’t want to miss a good time, a loud time. This is an album of beautiful, holy noise. You can hear individual notes of laughter, you can hear each individual voice reaching for the next individual voice to link hands with and ascend.

I am not much of a fool for optimism, but I am always seeking some optimisms within very specific truths. One of those being how do we, as people, pour generously back into ourselves in the midst of a world, a time, an ongoing era that takes and takes, relentlessly. It happens in small bursts, I think. Short paths, maybe, but wide ones. That’s where freedom lives. A place where you have survived and what you survived isn’t left behind, but it also isn’t the burden it once might have been. How fitting, that the album begins with the luminous “Springtime,” Russell singing so long / farewell / adieu adieu / to that tunnel I went through. And from there, light floods in.

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