[7 August 2011]
Marc Broussard was discovered singing and playing guitar on a street corner in Lafayette, La., after he arrived late for a slot as an opening act. Since that time, he’s been an in demand performer, as his energetic stage presence and vocal prowess are strong points for the Cajun born, blue-eyed soul singer. And he’s a talented songwriter whose personal, emotional touches and genuine R&B influences have deservedly brought him this far. Marc Broussard, his fifth studio platter overall and second for Atlantic Records, is an uneven recording, however, as some songs are among the best he’s written and recorded, while others are over produced with too many studio gimmicks and processed beats.
Strong points on the CD include opener “Lucky” for instance, a beautiful and jazzy statement of eternal love. There’s a glorious three-piece horn section that should be blaring, loud and proud, but is somewhat muted under lovely strings, a swirling Wurlitzer and a three-part harmony chorus. “Cruel” takes the opposite tact lyrically, asking a lover why she keeps playing him the fool as he’s finally walking away. It’s got a funky, thumping bass rhythm, and is rounded out with more keys and strings.
Middle ground is found on the lovely, mid-tempo ballads “Let It All Out” and “Let Me Do It Over”. Here, the protagonist begs a lover for conversation and discussion of what’s gone right and what’s gone wrong. There’s freedom and solace in words finally spoken to each other on the former, and a plea for forgiveness on the latter. Here, the string section and the swelling Wurlitzer of co-songwriter and album producer Jamie Kenny are a lovely accompaniment to Broussard’s gorgeous, sorrowful vocals. And “Our Big Mistake” is an absolute tearjerker, a ballad about being without a true love, with plaintive piano and mellow shimmering acoustic guitar.
Then there are the songs where things go wrong, even horribly wrong. The album’s first single, “Only Everything”, should have been left on the cutting room floor, despite being the most exultant and poppy song. There are too many programmed beats, and the multi-tracked vocal chorus is overbearing and exasperating. Instead of using an actual horn section—such as the horn players used on most of the other songs on the album—synthesized, keyboard horns are buried under all the other layers. “Bleeding Heart” is a snappy enough song, but the verses are layered with fake percussion rather than drumming, while the chorus features the real thing. Lastly, “Eye On The Prize” is a bayou rhythm and blues burner that grows with repeated listens. This song represents like father, like son familial ties, as Marc learned his craft from his father, renowned Louisiana guitarist Ted Broussard, and according to a news release, the song was inspired by Marc’s own son telling him he wanted “…to be in a working band”.
By and large the good songs outweigh the bad, and Marc Broussard is an enjoyable and listenable CD. But there are several songs here that sound like they come at the behest of greedy, capitalistic record label executives looking for a golden ticket to crossover success. Broussard should simply stick to what he does best, which is smooth Rhythm and Blues and blue-eyed soul, and leave the over-produced, radio rock for artists less naturally gifted as him.