Donnie The Daily News

Donnie The Daily News

Those looking for idyllic musical escapism would do well to avoid the sophomore album from soul vocalist Donnie. Before you even hear a note of the album, a scanning of the track listing will reveal The Daily News confronts a laundry list of social ills. This approach, however, is nothing new to Donnie. His debut, The Colored Section, found a way to mix hard-hitting messages with undeniably infectious soulful music and is surely one of the best R&B records of the decade thus far. The slow-burning success of that independent release eventually led to Motown re-releasing it, no doubt in part because the music and artistry on display evoked the ’70s label’s Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder output. Donnie does retain strains of his blend of soul, gospel and R&B, especially on lead single "If I Were You.” But most of the album, at least topically, is not as radiant. Donnie continues the approach of The Colored Section by presenting potentially difficult and taboo topics in ear-pleasing arrangements, which can be unnerving. It’s possible to be so enraptured with the horn arrangements on "Over the Counter Culture” that you miss that it’s a searing attack on the hypocrisy of the war on drugs. Similarly, the biting sarcasm of "Impatient People” over the response to Hurricane Katrina may not be detected by a casual listener, underlining Donnie’s sly songwriting talent. "Atlanta Child Murders” features Donnie going deeper into the conspiracy theories surrounding those tragic historical events, and by the time The Daily News is over he’s also delved incisively into unemployment, homophobia and incest. While on the surface this may seem like a heavy-handed, dour affair, Donnie’s righteous voice meshed with the sumptuous arrangements make these bitter, yet necessary, pills a lot easier to swallow. (Soul Thought)