Terry Blade presents his most powerfully personal statement yet on the deeply moving “American Descendant of Slavery”. A fully realized project, his exploration of his own experience alongside the historical precedents that brought America here feels masterful. With arrangements that possess a luxurious cadence whether they be hip-hop, pop, R&B, jazz and audio recordings of former African-American slaves (and their descendants) add to the rich tapestry. More than a single journey, Terry documents the journey of an entire group of people through hundreds of years’ worth of oppression, and does so in a way that is so soulful.
By far the true heart of the album comes from his razor-sharp focus and skillful narration. The past merges with the present in the whole of the sound. Like the counterpart to Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On” there is a tremendous honesty to the power of his verses, whether it highlights materialism as a coping mechanism for such pain or just the way that people have been treated in the United States for so long. Production here has a gracious, classic quality to it while it brings to mind some of the Free Nationals at their most subdued and stately. Nothing here ever feels rushed for it is a contemplative album one that is easy to get lost within its rich, luxurious sound.
On “Opening: What Did He Mean By That?” he sets the mood of the album. The usage of these interludes serves as a framing device for what he explores in his own lyricism, and thus “INward” features a careful exploration of the meaning of language, complete with a study of its very background, in intellectual as well as emotional terms. Rhythms have a gentle disposition with “Black Hurts” as Terry really showcases the power of his voice, as the guitar’s lilting, light-filled gestures almost sing alongside him. With “MTF” he brings elements of gender transition into the narrative, in a way that captures the very essence of the experience.
Things get brought to the essentials on the bluesy spirit of “Mr. Robertson”. Only an acoustic guitar and his voice yet it contains volumes, as the sparse arrangement offers such clarity on the journey. By far the highlight of the album comes from the gentle delicate grooves of “Ms. Mizell”. From the lightest hit of the percussion to the easy-going guitar work, his voice ties it all together in a way that feels warm and inviting. Passion pours forth on “I Want It Back”. Love for the surroundings takes front and center stage on the spacious “They Must Be Kin”. Pure poetry defines the luxurious, multi-faceted spirit of “Reparations”. Going for a personal take is the intense experience of “Same Gender Loving”. Jazz and hip-hop frames the sly basslines of “The Silent Treatment (Shivers Remix)”. On “Closing: Who Cares For Me?” the sparse arrangement adds to the stately, timeless message that the narrator unfurls. “Crawling (Bonus)” perfectly concludes the album, tying all that came before it together.
“American Descendant of Slavery” proves Terry Blade to be an impeccable storyteller offering an immersive exploration of America’s unvarnished historical truths.