[7 October 2004]
Marc Broussard comes by way of the Bayou—Cajun country, namely Louisiana. The youthful singer-songwriter released an independent EP entitled Momentary Setback in 2003 before a major label took note of him. He has worked with a “who’s who” of today’s safe, radio-friendly performers in Maroon5, the Dave Matthews Band and Tori Amos. But on the flip side he also has played with Willie Nelson and Robert Randolph. His debut album, named after his hometown, features the singer with a gritty, swampy and muddy blues-rock-pop style that has him recalling the likes of Mac Davis and old Delta blues or gospel singers starting off. This is indicated by the almost primal percussion driving “Home”, and it’s an odd, yet catchy sonic welcome mat. Adding handclaps, keyboards, a deep baritone harmony a lá the Blind Boys of Alabama, Broussard sounds like the real deal here, void of glossy production or studio micro-management. Fans of John Hiatt, Charlie Robison or Bonnie Raitt would enjoy this ditty, as it goes deeper into the funky bog. “This Greyhound is Delta bound”, Broussard sings as if he’s been doing this for far longer than he actually has.
However, this is just a teaser for this album, as “Rocksteady” is pure pre-packaged pabulum that makes John Mayer seem like a 25-year veteran singer-songwriter who has been covered by everyone but still unknown. The formulaic guitar, the rather bland chorus which 14-year-old girls will lap up with their forty-something parents, and the overall blah factor makes this sink like a stone. “When we get there you better be ready to rocksteady”, he sings as the almost yawn-inducing chorus makes you realize that the suits have been involved in this album to some extent. Broussard then tries his hand at the slower, soulful R&B-like “The Beauty Of Who You Are” which isn’t bad but isn’t great either. You know the direction this is going way before the chorus, as it’s basically soul-by-numbers. Vocally he delivers, but it comes off as lacking soul. This pattern continues on the lighter, melodic “Save Me”, which is more of an acoustic-folk pop effort that slowly builds over time. Again though, it’s pure radio-friendly fodder that will be remembered for a month at best.
Broussard is again guilty of this during “Come Around” which is a tune that Maroon5 might have left off their hit album. Complete with horns that give it more of an old-school-soul-cum-Motown style, Broussard again nails the song vocally. But you get the impression that he’s being stifled by the arrangements, not really having enough input into what his greatest strengths are. This song comes close to “Home” in terms of being more than just disposable ear-candy as he scats somewhat during the bridge. However, “Where You Are” resembles Hanson if they were still mired in that ridiculous, asinine “Mmm-Bop” whatever-the-hell-possessed-you era. Fluffy, catchy and something you will forget minutes after listening to it. But just when you’ve had it up to here with this material, Broussard will lure you back in with a brilliant, slow, hip-hugging “Lonely Night In Georgia”. Think of Al Green, or even Jack Black circa High Fidelity, and you’ll get the idea. It’s perhaps the highlight of the album, as everything fits together for a perfect number, even down to the brief rapid piano playing in the distance as it begins to fade out.
“Saturday” isn’t that bad either, although it moves into Mayer-meets-Jack Johnson territory as he sings about “talking without speaking words”. The flute usage thoughout could be done without. “The Wanderer” is average at best, and might bring to mind Canada’s Great Big Sea without any of the Celtic instrumentation. A banjo does make it more appealing though. Again, the third jewel in this album’s crown is the faux-closing “Let Me Leave”, another slow soulful ditty with a touch of strings added for a welcomed touch. A hidden track is also here, but you get the idea Broussard could excel if left to his strengths. It would definitely separate him from the rest of this current trendy flock.