Reaffirming that sometimes the only way out is through, Montreal native Allison Russell boldly confronts past traumas on the remarkable Outside Child, her debut release as a solo artist. A seasoned staple of the North American roots music scene, the singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist came up in the early 2000s as part of the eclectic Canadian band Po' Girl before teaming up with her husband, JT Nero, in the acclaimed folk duo Birds of Chicago. Now based in Nashville, she is also a member of Our Native Daughters, an all-female banjo-driven supergroup spearheaded by like-minded Renaissance woman Rhiannon Giddens. As a songwriter, Russell has been singing various forms of her truth for years, but on Outside Child, she candidly lays bare the fraught journey that transformed her from a sexually abused adolescent and teenage runaway to the fiercely creative force who found community and healing in music. Drifting seamlessly between English and French, she offers up paeans to the city that kept her safe after escaping her abusive stepfather and enabling mother at the age of 15. On the torchy "Montreal," she sings about sleeping rough in city parks, church pews, and cemeteries, each one a safer place than her own home. The lush blues of "Fourth Day Prayer," on which she devastatingly recalls her abuse, is also a meditation on forgiveness and empathy. On "The Runner," Russell recounts the moment music captured her heart outside a Vancouver music venue. Throughout her career, she has skirted the edges of various roots forms without painting herself into any one corner. That tastefulness manifests itself here in gorgeously layered arrangements that feel timeless and built to last. "Hy Brasil," another standout, pays homage to her Scottish-Canadian grandmother, whose taste for mythical and spiritual matters seems to have seeped into Russell's own consciousness. Its circular folk melody and witchy lyrics tap into an eerie undercurrent that occasionally reveals itself throughout the album. As a singer, Russell has a knack for playing around with different timbres to suit the song, and the abundance of crafty clarinet solos she delivers are an unexpected pleasure. As difficult and cathartic as the subject matter is, it's clear that she has come out on the other end and is not only thriving as an artist, but has found peace as a human. Having such a rich and compelling story to tell on a debut album is rare, and Russell delivers her tale with the utmost grace and finesse.