D’orjay thrillingly embraces the country genre without any of the historical limitations, biases, and white supremacism.
Much of the discourse about country music in 2020 centered on inclusion and the genre’s deeply entrenched — and deeply problematic — white supremacism. D’orjay the Singing Shaman’s New Kind of Outlaw is an album that foregrounds matters of identity, and D’orjay commands entry into a space that has, historically, not been welcoming to women of color and queer artists and perspectives. What’s immediately striking about the album is D’orjay’s mastery of country, blues, rock, and hip-hop conventions — and her facility with incorporating meaningful genre signifiers into her songs in ways that honor genre without being overly beholden to it. The title track, one of 2020’s best country singles, lays down an acoustic blues riff over a four-on-the-four stomp that puts the likes of Jason Aldean and Brantley Gilbert on immediate notice that their “outlaw” drag is purely performative. The song is a powerful declaration of intent, as D’orjay drawls, “They ain’t feelin’ my black, queer flow,” before shouting, “I love country music / Will country music love me?” The rest of New Kind of Outlaw reaffirms D’orjay’s love of country music. “Dirty Little Secrets” is a love-gone-wrong ballad drenched in steel guitar, while “One Day Closer” bounces along to some church piano power chords. Throughout, D’orjay’s full-bodied alto makes her a forceful presence: She’s a great singer, belting the a capella opening of “Float On (I Choose Me)” and showcasing her keen interpretive instincts on a terrific cover of the Wallflowers’ “One Headlight,” which closes the set. What makes New Kind of Outlaw such an assured debut, though, is D’orjay the Singing Shaman’s embrace of what makes country music vital — while also refusing its historical limitations and biases.
Published as part of Album Roundup: Oct. – Dec. 2020 | Part 3.