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Nadia Reid: elegantly poised melodies. Photo/Alex Lovell-Smith/Supplied

Out of My Province shows why Nadia Reid is among the best in the business

Graham Reid reviews the new album by well-travelled and much-lauded Kiwi folk star Nadia Reid.

On recent covers of British music magazine Mojo have been the Beatles, the Who, Neil Young and Leonard Cohen. All white males and quite a few dead ones at that.

Inside, however, the writers cover more diversity in contemporary folk, electronica, hip-hop, rock, jazz and so on.

The February issue was interesting. Although Johnny Cash was on the front, the cover-mount CD included a recent Chills recording of Pink Frost, inside was a Q&A with Aldous Harding (cryptic and elusive as ever) and at the top of Mojo’s office playlist was Nadia Reid’s Best Thing, the single in advance of her new album, Out of My Province.

With her 2017 album, Preservation, Port Chalmers-based Reid – who has been nominated for a Tui award for best folk album, the Taite Music Prize and an Apra Silver Scroll at home – confirmed her place in the international firmament, with acclaim in the Guardian, Uncut, Pitchfork and Mojo. She has been credited for “saving folk music” by Billboard.

Last month, Britain’s Uncut placed Reid’s Out of My Province in its preview of important 2020 albums, alongside those by Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever, Tame Impala, AC/DC and the Oh Sees.

Suffice it to say, expectation was high for Out of My Province, which takes its title from an interview comment by Janet Frame and speaks to an intellectual and literal sense of separation.

Reid’s world view is now expansive; the album, for the Virginia-based Spacebomb label where most of this was recorded, includes easy references to Stansted, Canada, Norway, Spain and more.

The pop-friendly Other Side of the Wheel, about emotional space and distance, came from a self-imposed writing retreat on Italy’s Amalfi Coast (“I feel free for the first time”).

Yet as sonically widescreen and geographically inclusive as some of these songs are, they remain intimate and conversational – notably, in All of My Love, High & Lonely and Heart to Ride. That’s even as they deal with themes of disappointment, the rediscovery of love, metaphorical departures and arrivals.

Self-doubt appears on Who is Protecting Me, but she’s “making friends with who I used to be” on the cathartic closer, Get the Devil Out.

Out of My Province bristles with confidence, with a stronger vocal delivery than on past albums, astute arrangements for strings and horns and 10 discrete, memorable songs.

Reid’s melodies remain elegantly poised, her intelligent lyrics are delivered with clarity and the songs are acoustic-framed and reflective. But some also come as chiming folk rock, like the radio-friendly Oh Canada in which she sings “all the travelling I have done, I don’t know what I’m looking for”.

That doesn’t quite ring true on this evidence. Reid has created herself a secure, assured place with this intriguing, sophisticated and memorable collection.

In previous decades, excitement at international acceptance of New Zealand artists was often burdened with cultural cringe or a Sally Field moment: “You like us, you really like us!”

Now, we simply note international success because our artists are on the same playing field. And as often as not, as Reid proves here, we’re beating them at their own game.

OUT OF MY PROVINCE, by Nadia Reid (Spacebomb Records/Rhythmethod), released on March 6.

★★★★★

This article was first published in the March 7, 2020 issue of the New Zealand Listener.

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