February 15, 2010
Just because you saw the movie Crouching Tiger Doesnâ€™t mean that I know kung-fu And just because Mr. Yan has an accent Doesnâ€™t mean that Iâ€™ve got one too People tell me I â€œspeak good Englishâ€ Or that Iâ€™m â€œtoo thin to be Bruce Leeâ€ Where do they get their preconceptions Of what Iâ€™m supposed to be?That's his first single, but the first track on the album, is more blunt in addressing the inequities of many immigrants of color to the U.S.:
Welcome to the USA Freedom is your right Land of opportunity Only if youâ€™re white Welcome to the USA Sea to shining sea I give my money, give my life Still they stare at me Welcome, Welcome, heyâ€¦On the third track, "Ku Li," Dawen weaves in the lyrics from the folk song, "I've been working on the railroad," into a stunning statement about how Chinese immigrants were treated as slave labor during the taming of the American West. What's amazing, despite such in-your-face lyrics, is that Dawen wraps his message in an incredible wealth of warm musicality, starting with his soulful R&B vocals to his must-be-classically-and-jazz-trained keyboards and his guitar work, and his hooky instincts for get-in-your-head melodies and late-night funk bedrock rhythms. The album is a mellow, low-key wonder that can play in the background or zoom into the foreground with the sharply-observed social activism of the first eight tracks.