What a marvelously audacious introduction The Colored Section is. Emerging from the same Jazz Café-centered alternative Atlanta soul scene that nourished and nurtured fellow hippie-soul singer/songwriters like Joi and India.Arie all the way into the public consciousness, Donnie's first LP is a topical, unapologetically conscientious, and even righteously stinging declaration that, yes, can only be likened to the classic sociopolitical masterworks of spiritual predecessors Donny Hathaway and especially Stevie Wonder. Songs like "Cloud 9" and "Wildlife," in fact, may be too indebted to genius-era Wonder -- the former with its wah-wah guitar and warm gusts of squelchy synth vibrato, the latter with its prominent clavinet and crisp harmonica ad-libs -- but are such stunning vintage impersonations that both easily could have slipped somewhere onto Innervisions. No matter from which angle you choose to approach such a statement, it couldn't really be taken as a criticism, nor should it be with The Colored Section. The music is consistently empowered and empowering: gracefully buttery, always deeply moving, and at its core profoundly idealistic. Generous melodies abound, rising from a gospel-derived groundwork, spun around street-tinged jazz rhythms, and enlivened by wonderful touches of humor like the Dixie frills of "Big Black Buck" that underscore an otherwise valuable criticism of consumerist society. And lest Donnie be dismissed as an imitator (a studied, well-versed disciple clearly, yes, but certainly not a clone), he explores a wealth of his own refreshingly original ideas, stretching out with genuine invention (the gorgeous cosmic explorations of "Heaven Sent," the jittery electronic backdrop of "Masterplan") as often as he reaches backwards into retro styles (invigorating bossa nova on "Do You Know?," the romantic, Baroque string arrangement of "Turn Around"). It is as bold and self-assured a debut as soul music has seen since D'Angelo's Brown Sugar. It falls just short of brilliance only because it borrows a few tricks too many from its obvious musical models, but even with its flaws, the album is such a vivid, radiant outpouring of soul-stirring talent and passion that it could fill two hearts.
AllMusic Review by Stanton Swihart