ACL Review: Lucy Dacus

Ascending Nineties grunge to almost-country

Lucy Dacus had a good year. Debut No Burden, initially a school project, came out in February through a label in her home base of Richmond, Virginia. By spring, the 21-year-old singer-guitarist-songwriter signed to Matador Records. Last month, the trendsetting NYC imprint re-released the album.

Photo by Shelley Hiam

This accelerated trajectory felt like “well, fuckin’ duh” after her fourpiece’s 2:30pm appearance on the perennially curated-to-a-T BMI stage.

Equal parts talent and charm (there’s an enormous helping of both), the Virginians played with genre during their ACL debut. Dacus’ voice boasts a bluesy twang, but the band swam from indie rock & roll with Nineties grunge to rootsy almost-country, and back again. The skuzzy, new-blues guitar lines and Dacus’ belting on “Troublemaker Doppelgänger" stirred, while the seven-minute “Map on a Wall” marked the band at its best.

Its slow, unassuming start grew into a frantic sprawl punctuated by a rallying drumbeat and tireless, shimmering guitar lines – all tangling eventually into a noisy breakdown.

“Green Eyes, Red Face” and “Dream State” pushed muggy soulfulness as “Strange Torpedo” and hit “I Don’t Wanna Be Funny Anymore” resurfaced back in hooky, radio-friendly rock. A straight, earnest take on Bruce Springsteen’s “Dancing in the Dark,” dedicated to Dacus’ father in the audience, came off completely winsome. The singer moved effortlessly through it all, an anchor for the set.

The sort of performer who’s only pure possibilities, Lucy Dacus marked the best part of any festival: The privilege of catching an intimate, small stage performance from an artist whose rapid ascent to the big stages is totally inevitable.

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Libby Webster, July 31, 2019

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Lucy Dacus, ACL Fest 2016, Bruce Springsteen, Matador Records

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