The search for identity is a sine qua non of any artist's experience and development. But for a musician like Nicky Schrire, it goes much deeper than most. Born in London, raised in South Africa, studying and entering the professional ranks in New York and working back through her initial points of origin before relocating to Toronto in 2020, this noted vocalist-composer has established herself as a globetrotter of the first order. Stylistically, as with geography, Schrire hits multiple points on the map, embracing the music(s) of her homeland(s), the mantle and sounds of the singer-songwriter, the rootsand multiple branchesof jazz, and so much more. That breadth of experience offers numerous positives, yet it also comes with a paradox where moving everywhere and anywhere equates to the notion of being nowhere. And so this story forms.
Nowhere GirlSchrire's first full-length release in a decadeis a compelling diary and travelogue filled with sharp reflections and discoveries. A world-wise exploration of the first order, it offers pure honesty and poetic grace in equal measures. Leading a top-notch Canadian quartet featuring pianist Chris Donnelly, bassist Dan Fortin and drummer Ernesto Cervini, Schrire puts her pellucid pipes to good use throughout, establishing herself as a heroine of the here and there.
Opening on the title track, one of nine originals, Schrire sets off on a straight-time trip that, mirroring the theme, offers a few twists along the way. The first of several numbers featuring guest saxophonist Tara Davidson, it's an ear-grabber of an entryway for both artist and listener. Shifting gears with "Traveler," an emotionally resonant tale about the stress that circumstances and separation creates between two artists in a relationship, Schrire earns status as a master storyteller. Having already left a deep impression with a previous incarnation of the song on an EPTo The Spring (Self-Produced, 2014)she takes it to another level here with increased poignancy and interpretational powers. It's a clear standout in a program filled with many.
Continuing the journey, Schrire reveals different facets of her artistry and background. "A Morning," built on haunting and dewy designs, and "Father," with its twinkling resonance and folk-ish nature, speak to her British bearing. "Closer to the Source," a cool-headed Bheki Mseleku composition with new lyrics from this leader, and "My Love," a shining homage to Cape Town enhanced by the presence of Mozambican guitarist Julio Sigauque, address South Africa's importance. "This Train" projects a muted and moving look at the wonders and warts of New York, expressing fondness for five years spent in its interior. "In Paris" reveals an intoxicating nostalgia trip tied to a memorable month in The City of Light(s). And Anna McGarricle's "Heart like a Wheel" nods to a life north of the 49th parallel, with Canadian vocalist Laila Biali dropping in and making her presence felt.
Adding volumes to the mix without necessarily placing pins on the map, Schrire includes her Beatles-inspired/CSNY-indebted "Love is for The Birds" and an intimate call to carry forward in "Keep it Simple," making the album complete. A compelling portrait of an artist eager to find herself within and without the world she inhabits, Nowhere Girl is a statement from a singer and writer who has clearly found her place.
1. Nowhere Girl 3.15 (Schrire)
2. Traveler 3.52 (Schrire)
3. A Morning 4.31 (Schrire)
4. Closer To The Source 4.19 (Mseleku, Schrire)
5. This Train 4.09 (Schrire)
6. Father 5.18 (Schrire)
7. In Paris 4.05 (Schrire)
8. Heart Like A Wheel 5.26 (McGarrigle)
9. Love Is For The Birds 3.38 (Schrire)
10. Keep It Simple 3.58 (Schrire)
11. My Love 3.55 (Schrire)
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