Hurray for the Riff Raff: The Past Is Still Alive review – a time-shifting personal journey

<span>‘Deceptively easygoing’: Hurray for the Riff Raff.</span><span>Photograph: Tommy Kha</span>
‘Deceptively easygoing’: Hurray for the Riff Raff.Photograph: Tommy Kha

As any history student knows, the present is just the past playing out in real time. There’s a sense of time looping in Alynda Segarra’s ninth album, in which the New Orleans-based singer-songwriter revisits their saturated backstory to remember loved ones, honour fellow travellers and “watch the world burn” with a tear in their eye.

Segarra’s father died shortly before recording; his voicemails provide the outro of this thoughtful, deceptively easygoing record. Another time shift: after a couple of recent more electric and pop-oriented outings, Segarra’s latest boomerangs them back into folk-adjacent territory with a classy band in tow, subtly accessorised by strings, brass and keys.

Segarra ran away from their aunt and uncle’s Bronx home as a queer teenager, riding box cars, busking and “eating out of the garbage”. Songs such as the excellent Hawkmoon or Colossus of Roads remember “drinking a fifth before three”; the latter namechecks poet Eileen Myles and the title nods to the late oil pen boxcar artist Buz Blurr. There are words of love for suicidal addicts (Alibi) and a sense of the distance travelled, while remaining constant: an outlier whose solidarity with the runaways and the marginalised endures.