Out Of My Province (Spacebomb)
It’s partly because I’m still marked deeply by her second album, Preservation – an emotional and musical cascade of intensity and beauty - that Out Of My Province felt at first like a relatively light piece of pleasure from New Zealander Nadia Reid.
That 2017 record’s scarring descriptions of character and some of its most concentrated sounds had me reeling when taken in close, repeated doses. Out Of My Province on first listening seemed the very attractive fruit of combining Reid, producer Trey Pollard and Virginian songwriter Matthew E. White in his Spacebomb studios whose speciality has been warm country soul.
That category seems well represented here. Oh Canada’s cruise rhythm, brass and elevating chorus feels like the sun rising on a better day (and casually throws in a Joni Mitchell reference); Other Side Of The Wheel spins like an easy Ventura Highway drive later that day (“I feel free for the first time/I am lonely but it’s not for the last time”);
Best Thing sees the sun setting but the horizon looks clear so that the string sections seems to emerge naturally; and The Future, with its slip-sliding bass under the drums and acoustic guitar rhythm, promises a night of cold drinks and hot ribs as Reid sings about not waiting for someone else to change to remake how you face the world.
None of these songs lose their appeal or their buoyancy as the album gets repeated, and there is definitely a thicker, richer sound this time around. However, it is not the recognition of the darker seams of Out Of My Province – such as High & Lonely, where as a country ballad brings in some southern horns to emphasise the sweat, Reid prepares the ground for The Future with a woman caught between unattractive options - which corrects the initial impressions.
Instead it is recognising that this is an album meant to provide succour irrespective of its individual tales. That Reid’s voice does its work with such warmth, but without overt effort to impose that warmth, that pain, joy, speculation and acceptance arrive as objects of interest and curiosity rather than devastation or rescue.
In I Don’t Wanna Take Anything From You, in quietly solemn territory common to Bill Callahan and Holly Throsby, a resonating bass sound appears at intervals to remind you that this isn’t an easy moment, just as the strings bring a reminder that it isn’t an end either. Then in Get The Devil Out, a compact setting of folk atmosphere, it is the electric guitar which contributes the certainty of purpose while the strings prickle slightly.
That last song, which is in fact the album’s last song, is Reid’s simplest and yet most satisfying vocal because it holds all the conflicts and potential contradictions calmly and clearly. Be here, it says. Stay here. I can’t promise the good, but maybe you don’t need that promise.
And that’s not light at all.