[12 August 2014]
Invoking famed American illustrator Norman Rockwell for the cover of his latest album, Louisiana soul singer has aspired to convey small town Americana and its sentimental essence on his sixth studio album, A Life Worth Living. The son of Louisiana Hall of Fame guitarist Ted Broussard (The Boogie Kings), Broussard uses Rockwell as a metaphor for family and fondness, a life at home amidst loved ones and its trivial details. Citing his birthplace and still hometown of Carencro as a major influence, Broussard notes, “This place is just special. There’s a different way of living, a different way of communicating and a different way of celebrating life here that is infectious.”
Rockwell could have illustrated the peaceful easiness of “Shine”, Broussard’s ode to summer, his vocals rising like the supermoon over the bayou, but Norman would have blushed at the slow build of “Weight of the World” with its overt sexuality: “Let’s put a record on / Something slow from before we were born / Honey, this is what, this is the music that made us.” This brand of soul is Broussard’s strength and the bulk of A Life Worth Living attempts to carry on along these lines.
The wreckage of Hurricanes Katrina and Isaac inform Broussard’s sense of locale and signify his roots, either metaphorically as on the album’s opener, “Hurricane Heart”, an unrepentant lament of infidelity, or literally on the poignant title track, which couples the loss of his grandmother with Isaac baring down on Louisiana. Broussard also pays tribute to a fallen friend on the ballad “Give Em Hell” singing, “Well I think I might know what you’d want to say / Give em hell for me / Dry your stupid eyes you big baby / You’d say give em hell for me.”
Splaying genres on A Life Worth Living, the growling blues of “Dyin’ Man” showcases Broussard’s backing band and his own vocal range. On the country-tinged “Honesty”, the album’s best song, Broussard’s nasal vocals sell the pain of a jilted lover: “I don’t need nothing from you, baby / Nothing but honesty / Talk to me honestly / You should know us well enough by now / The sun is still shining, babe / Don’t set on us today / You say you need time.” Conversely, Broussard angles for radio play on the cliché-ridden “Perfect to Me”, a hybrid pop-folk/bro-country trifle better suited for Radio Disney star Ross Lynch. Going from the song’s bridge of “You got me singing ‘Oh, oh, oh’ / You got me losing all control / Girl you got me falling into you,” Broussard mixes in the laughable rap coda of “Giving all the boys a run for their money / You’ve got it going on, it ain’t even funny” to the final chorus, cementing the song’s juvenile world view.
Having released an album of soul covers (2007’s S.O.S.: Save Our Soul) and recorded tribute songs from Bruce Springsteen and Randy Newman, Broussard should by now have a better understanding of the songwriting process. While capably conveying genuine sentimentality on “A Life Worth Living” and “Give Em Hell”, “Perfect to Me” and the mawkish “Edge of Heaven” with its “You got me hanging by a string / It’s not a temporary thing” carry little pathos.
Decades removed from Rockwell’s prime, the idyllic version of America is one now known to be hollow. For Broussard, those honored on A Life Worth Living had just that, warranting such remembrances. Yet, the the pains of life and love that comprise the majority of A Life Worth Living feel contrived rather than nostalgic. By whitewashing lies and deceit with hopeful, sorry songs, the homogenized A Life Worth Living is more Freedom from Want than The Problem We All Live With, and thus resonates as false.