arts 06.20.03


Stevie Wonder, Donny Hathaway, Marvin Gaye, some Chaka Khan joy, a bit of Gamble, Huff and Thom Bell's Philadelphia, a little funk, a little jazz, a stroll down Bourbon Street — all of that together and you still don't quite have singer/songwriter Donnie, though you're in the right aisle.

That's because there hasn't been a debut album as distinctive and as joyously alive as "The Colored Section" in a very long time. It's easy to imagine people years from now, when they hear this album, reminded of the summer of 2003. And for us at this moment, there's the thrill of hearing a major talent burst through the sleeve of the record. Oh, they don't make records with sleeves any more? Listen to "The Colored Section" and tell us that.

The work, however, is not a throwback. Donnie, Kentucky-born and Atlanta-raised, uses sounds that are in his blood (quite literally: the late Marvin Gaye was his cousin), but creates utterly fresh-sounding tunes. There's also an interesting dissonance between the get-up-and-groove of the music and the pensive, sometimes piercing lyrics. From the album title on, many of the songs look at the past, present, and future state of the black man in America. And his fabulous voice conveys a complex set of reactions to those circumstances.

Donnie will be performing on June 30th at the Bowery Ballroom, 6 Delancey [Bowery] 866.468.7619. Meanwhile, have a listen to this sublime album. To borrow from one of his lyrics: it's heaven sent. Very evident.

Another debut winning raves is Mark Haddon's novel The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (Doubleday, $22.95) in which a 15-year-old autistic boy narrates the mystery of a murdered poodle. Mr. Haddon will be reading at the Used Books Cafe, 126 Crosby [Houston/Prince] 212.334.3324, on Sunday at 5:30.

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