Ndidi Onukwulu submitted a three song demo to the TBS Talent Search as an early first step in her Toronto career, twenty years ago.  She didn’t “compete” in the session as the submission came in too late, however the tracks were so compelling, she got an invite to the Women’s Blues Revue in 2004 at Massey Hall.  Also on the bill were Jackie Richardson, Sue Foley, Rita Chiarelli, Dawn Tyler Watson and Serena Ryder.  It was quite a debut and she hasn’t looked back.  Her latest recording is supported by her story in a “one sheet” from Steve Dawson’s label Black Hen 

Ndidi O has never been one to pull her punches.  A true force of nature, her raw and powerful voice has breathed fire into her heart-on-the-sleeve songs for more than two decades now. For all of her many accomplishments over the years, Ndidi’s never given us a record quite like Simple Songs for Complicated Times.

Born and raised in Burns Lake, British Columbia, music has always been part of Ndidi’s life.  As a young woman, she left her rural town for New York and Toronto to find her voice and develop her distinctive style.  Over the years, she’s recorded 5 solo albums, earning her 2 JUNO nominations and WCMA Blues Artist of the Year accolades. In search of her musical holy grail, she’s experimented with roots, blues, soul, and trip-hop as a solo artist, and with Boga, Sankova, (featuring Allison Russell) and The Lightning 3 amongst others.

Ndidi’s previous project, 2022’s The Blue and the Gold, with Trish Klein of The Be Good Tanyas, paid tribute to under-appreciated female creators in blues music, and laid the foundation for her new album, where with characteristic bravery, Ndidi O takes on a subject rarely covered in popular music. The deceptively titled Simple songs for Complicated Times is a thematic tour de force, a song cycle that illuminates the choices of women who neglected to follow ‘the plan,’ and missed the boat that picked up their peers to sail into the waters of domestic bliss.

If the territory sounds intimidating, Ndidi’s soulful, uplifting performances smooth over the rough edges and encourage her audience to listen deeply. With a voice that exudes the rawness of Etta James one moment, and Dionne Warwick’s delicate soul the next, listening to Ndidi O is a master class in phrasing.  Every breath and nuance that comes from her serves the songs and brings them home. A truly masterful performer, this is the record Ndidi has been in training for a lifetime to make.

Simple Songs for Complicated Times was primarily recorded live off the floor in the intimate confines of Steve Dawson’s Henhouse studio in Nashville. Steve and Ndidi have collaborated many times over the years, including Ndidi’s debut album ‘The Contradictor’, and have played many live shows together. But, Simple Songs for Complicated Times marks the first time they’ve created music in the studio in nearly two decades. The results speak for themselves.  The intuition between the singer and musicians is exhilarating to experience.  The whole band flows effortlessly with Ndidi’s electricity and unique delivery. Steve is in top form, offering up some of his finest guitar and pedal steel playing. The rhythm section of Sam Howard (bass) and Gary Craig (drums) lay a rock-solid foundation for Chris Gestrin’s dynamic keyboard flourishes. The backup singers, Khari McClelland, Dawn Pemberton and Keri Latimer are truly inspired and take Ndidi’s leads to another level

Finally, if the songs on Ndidi’s new album are simple, their themes and the emotional landscape they operate in, is anything but. “Get Gone” is a searing evisceration of toxic people and places that age and wisdom teach us to leave behind. “Too Late” explores what it’s like to be middle aged in an industry and culture that has always favored the young.  This theme culminates in “Worth”, the album’s closing track. With its chorus proclaiming ‘don’t have a house/don’t have a car/ain’t got a man/don’t want your kids,’ it is at once a song for this moment, and for the ages.

Brash and challenging, warm and inviting, Simple Songs for Complicated Times reflects everything that has always been so appealing about Ndidi O’s music.  Heartbreak has never hurt so deliciously, nor has salvation ever seemed so near. This is Ndidi’s moment. Simple Songs for Complicated Times will leave you breathless. The Love You Bleed