Singer-songwriter Lucy Dacus’ debut album thrust her into the scene as a prophetic wunderkind—a flesh and blood, yet musical and metaphorical proof that the kids are all right. No Burden, which was originally released on CD via her hometown Richmond-based EggHunt Records in February 2016, was later picked up by Matador Records and re-released later that year. Now, just about two years after her original musical statement, Dacus returns with the expansive, defiant Historian.
But whereas No Burden represented a tentative, if professional foray into musicianship, Historian serves as a confident statement piece. She continues her impressive storytelling arc with quippy one-liners (the opening couplet to the viscous opening break up song “Night Shift”), subtleties that require multiple listens to grasp fully (the entirety of the soft, closing “Historians”), and contemplative assessments about the world around us (like “Yours & Mine,” which Dacus began writing in 2015 after the death of Freddie Gray and subsequent protests in Baltimore, but finished after participating in the 2017 Women’s March in DC).
A self-taught guitarist who often works in non-traditional tunings, Dacus allows herself even greater freedom in experimentation on Historian. And with award-winning producer/engineer John Congleton at the production helm (who has worked with such diverse acts as David Byrne, Modest Mouse, St. Vincent, and more), Historian sounds even more like an indie rock masterpiece. As examples, ‘Timefighter” features one of the most aggressive bass lines on the record, even in its slow tempo and sparseness, and “Pillar of Truth,” a song written in honor of her late grandmother, showcases her shouts and upper-register reaches. Still, its Dacus’ poetry and wisdom that bind her to the roots of traditional and Southern storytelling—a gift that the rest of us are lucky enough to enjoy.