Pop Albums: Dana Bryant Wishing from the Top Warner Bros 9362- 45642-2
Dana Bryant ought to change all that. A startlingly talented poetess with an individual voice and an arresting delivery - and something of a babe, to boot - she derives much of her impetus, if not her attitude, from rap, oozing her lines over the top of funk backing tracks with a feline grace that lends itself perfectly to her subject matter: in the 12 tracks of Wishing From The Top, the black American experience comes vividly to life, with layers of irony and commentary already built into its structure. Both on righteous-cool assertions of identity such as "Heavy Mellow" and unbearably erotic love odes like "Religion", Bryant manages with apparent ease the trick of being in two places at once, undeniably at the heart of her poems yet simultaneously distant, observing herself at that heart; she is both object and subject of this work.
The result is that tracks which start out simple twist themselves into more complex positions. A fulsome declaration of love such as "Bone Simple" suddenly reveals the stagnant depths to which the relationship in question has sunk, and the childhood friend remembered so fondly in "Margaret" turns out, in the final lines, to have been killed.
Bryant is particularly effective on memory, using heat as the Proustian spur for her reminiscences of a South Carolina church congregation in "Heat", and recalling with rowdy good humour her teenage big-butt yearnings, and how they were solved by the acquisition of "Dominican Girdles" (a sort of stuffed bra for the booty).
The backings, constructed by a variety of producers including Brendan Lynch, PM Dawn, Speech of Arrested Development and former Style Councillor Mick Talbot, are sympathetic without overpowering the words - the churchy Southern ambience of "Heat" is built upon congas and a loop of chirping cicadas, while the smooth-talking "Cat Daddy" (a relative of "The Jackal", the super-pimp figure she anatomised on the Ronny Jordan Meets DJ Krush EP) is characterised by a spindly guitar figure strolling lazily over a subtle electric piano part, confident and cool as you like. Wishing From The Top is an object lesson in the subtle power of verse, and if it were taught this way in schools, poetry might never again be a marginalised art.
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