How could Lucy Dacus possibly get better? A recent alum of Austin City Limits Music Festival’s undercard, the calm Virginia powerhouse blew me away when I first saw her perform. Her lyrics are scary vulnerable, and her nonchalant demeanor belies a voice that roils and overwhelms like the sea. The sea!
But the sea can always get deeper, I guess. Dacus opened up NPR’s South by Southwest showcase Wednesday night, and yes, she was as deep and placid as ever. But on her new album, “Historian,” the singer’s intimate confessions are more assured, and she walks through them with a steadier gaze.
“You said don’t go changing. I’ll rearrange to let you in,” she sang to kick off the set, ambient noise cracking hearts open. Dacus also sang about how we’ve all got addictions, and about the destruction of a relationship and the subsequent avoidance it causes on “Night Shift”: “I feel no need to forgive but I might as well/But let me kiss your lips so I know how it felt.”
Dacus is all over Austin this SXSW, and with good reason. Her voice, in case you had not heard, is singular, a warm pour that becomes a flood when she hits an emotional high-water mark. On “Yours & Mine,” about admitting you’re discontent in the place you are even if that means present-day America, Dacus ripped into a chant of “me and mine” like I hadn’t heard in previous performances, stirring up a fever that burst into a cry of “this ain’t my home anymore.” I wouldn’t say it was quite a revival, but a tent wouldn’t have been out of place.
Sure, Dacus still laments about everyone else seems to have it all figured out. Doubt is part and parcel with handling the heavy stuff. The point is just that you’re handling it.