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First Watch: Nora Jane Struthers, 'Bike Ride'

For those who haven't yet discovered Nora Jane Struthers, the summery song "Bike Ride" is a great introduction to her beguiling, well-considered worldview. The first time Struthers sings the song's most important line — "I can go anywhere" — the phrase rises up out of her throat, free, wide open. The second time, a phrase later, she clamps down on it with some grit. "'Bike Ride' is a song about a re-awakening," the 29-year-old Nashville resident said in a recent email. "When you propel yourself forward through time and space on your own steam, you realize your own agency."

Purposefulness is a major theme in Struthers' updated brand of bluegrass, whether she's sharing tales of female adventurers, taking on the murder ballad form, or writing of her own journey from Virginia to New York and back down South. "Bike Ride" is the new single from l, Struthers' first album with her current band, The Party Line. The tune is a lark, a bluegrass-flavored lope that turns into a singalong. But it contains some blue notes. "I think the wistfulness you've identified is, perhaps, the melancholy that sets in when you discover that you've lost yourself for a period of time, that you've lived feeling trapped or stagnant and didn't even realize it," Struthers wrote when I told her I though the song was a little bit sad.

The video for "Bike Ride," directed by Struthers' longtime , interweaves footage of the band cycling around the leafy streets of East Nashville with clips of vintage 8-millimeter film taken by Wildman's late grandmother. The older material helps reveal another bigger story behind this ambulatory lark: that as we move forward, we do truly lose some of what we love. It shows Wildman's family members on tricycles, yes, but also in wedding scenes and gatherings that feature growing families. "The song speaks to something lost and the search to find it and for me, for the video, what is lost is the past," Wildman wrote from Nashville. "We all miss the times to which we can never return. I think that is a special side of nostalgia that is truly sad and Nora Jane understands this."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Ann Powers is NPR Music's critic and correspondent. She writes for NPR's music news blog, The Record, and she can be heard on NPR's newsmagazines and music programs.