In the first track of her debut album “No Burden,” Lucy Dacus tells the world “I don’t need to be the frontman” — however, it’s a hard role to avoid while heading up one of the most promising bands of the year. The Richmond, VA based folk rock singer-songwriter has been putting out high quality acoustic material for the past few years, but her first full length album takes her electric influences and runs with them.
“No Burden” is a driving, blues-tinged album, complete with simple, crunchy guitar riffs and mixed-down drums keeping the tempo going. This said, Dacus isn’t afraid to branch out into other styles, with the jazz chords and dreamy fade out of the track “Direct Address.” Her witty, narrative lyrical style brings up almost inevitable comparisons to fellow female songwriter Courtney Barnett, while her much more melodic vocal compositions and sweet, isolated leads elevate her music beyond Barnett’s simpler style.
The songwriting addresses the concerns of a new musician and young adult seeking to be taken seriously in her career and personal life without falling into the mournful and angsty tendencies that so often characterize other artists writing in the same vein. Dacus is able to let her lyrical prowess and musical integrity do the talking, while maintaining an upbeat, almost joking, tone at times to prevent the album from taking itself too seriously.
Proving her chops with growling blues tracks like “Troublemaker Doppelganger” as well as with the simple and pared down acoustic of “Trust,” Dacus shows her capability in a range of styles, taking her folk rock label to new heights. “Map on a Wall” is a particularly standout track, roaring to a crescendo led by pulsing guitars and Dacus’ powerful voice, before fading out with sparse vocals pleading for the music world to take her as seriously as the value of her music demands.
It is difficult to find many faults in this album, which combines stellar songwriting with diverse compositions and production value much higher than its recording over the course of a single day would suggest. The opening salvo of four consecutive fuzzy blues tracks shifts the pacing of the album towards the first half, but the production value and lyrical depth of the latter half certainly holds its own against the raw energy of the openers. “No Burden” presents a debut album with both lyrical and musical depth, and gives a stellar foundation to whatever direction her career turns from here.
Listen to Geoffrey’s show Beside the Point every Monday from 7-8 p.m., only on CisternYard Radio.
Geoffrey and his co-host, Phillip Greene, will be reporting live from Savannah Stopover March 10-12, where Lucy Dacus will be performing! Follow CisternYard Radio on Twitter, Snapchat, and Instagram (@cy_radio) for live reports from the festival!