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  • Cy White

Dawn Richard: Second Line

What I adore more than anything about Ms. Dawn Richard is her exploration of and ardor for her Creole heritage. It goes beyond simply acknowledging her roots. She celebrates them with every piece of music she releases. This point is never more prominent than in her latest LP, Second Line.

From the intro, you understand where her soul lay. It's instantaneous, her obvious love of who she is, her people, her history. This self-love manifests in her adoration of music. You feel it and hear it in the groove of each track on Second Line. Feel it in the pulse and thump of the music. This is traditional house, absolutely yes and amen. But it goes deeper than that. Deep house because it's thicker in the middle, relies more on the tribal elements of the drum machine, as in the magical last moments of "Bussifame" leading into track "Pressure." The sound of a heart as it beats strong for the culture. All you hear is wall-to-wall musical adulation.

Compositionally, much of the album makes use of the mid-song volta, a means to bring a different a perspective to the same song with a change of tempo, pacing or the entire composition altogether. It's effective in allowing Richard to not only maximize the amount of music on the album. She also uses it to fully display the many-layered story of her life, its loves, triumphs, pains. It's an aural autobiography that's as much a glimpse at her journey as it is a love note to where she comes from and where she is now. The multifaceted "SELFish" outro is a powerful way to close the album. Essentially and effectively closing one chapter of who she is and making way for something new, evidenced in the way the song ends on heavy reverb as opposed to a stagnant bit of zero-space that would indicate a true ending.

Lyricism, simple. Vocals that are more than just the trademark range Richard carries within her. She knows how to use her instrument as it's meant to be used. Creating a foundation for the sounds she explores in this deep-house experience. Harmony work that mimics the zippy dissonance of synth melodies as in "Boomerang" and "SELFish." It's also funk-soul. Music that reaches back just as much as it pulls itself forward ("Voodoo"). Romance and deep heart ("Morning Streetlights").

The pure honest emotion in this album, no matter the song's tempo or composition, is so unfiltered. There's incredible freedom here. Richard allows herself to explore her furthest musical reaches, to express the spectrum of her womanhood, her divine femininity. Sensual, visceral. There's a steady throb that makes a red line through this piece, and you most certainly feel it from top to bottom. Second Line is gorgeous, flowing, a statement piece that declares, "Dawn Richard!" as if she is more than an artist. She's a living, breathing work of art.


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