Out on March 3rd on all major platforms, (link here), the new album from Marc Broussard is a classic blues outing. Sometimes I get an album titled “blues” by the artist, but it has strayed far from the path; this is no nonsense traditional blues delivered in those smoky downtown clubs of old, where a bourbon and a cigarette were required.
Before we unpick the tunes, a few words about the album and the cause it supports. It is released in support of the “Keeping the Blues Alive Foundation.” This is a registered 501©3 non-profit organization founded in 2011 by three-time GRAMMY-nominated blues-rock artist Joe Bonamassa. KTBA fuels the passion for music by funding relief grants and music education programs for students and teachers all over the US. To date, KTBA has supported over 88,000 students through donations totaling over $2 million, benefiting schools in every state.
In 2020, the award-winning Fueling Musicians Program was created as a relief fund to help touring musicians get back on the road. The goal of the program is to help musicians by giving them money to help pay for things like food, shelter, medical bills, and more. To date, KTBA has helped over 350 musicians in need of support. For more information on how to support, visit www.ktba.org.
Marc Broussard has been helping people in need for more than a decade, starting with his self-released album Bootleg to Benefit the Victims of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and his work to set up the Momentary Setback Fund to help people who had to move because of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. In 2015, to further his commitment to tying music to a mission, he established the S.O.S. Foundation as a conduit to raise money for worthy causes, including the United Way, Habitat for Humanity, the City of Refuge in Atlanta, and Our Lady of the Lake Children’s Hospital in Baton Rouge, LA. https://www.marcbroussard.com/charity-1
So this album has SOS in the title for a reason! It brings together soul vocalist Marc Broussard with the legendary blues guitarist Joe Bonamassa, working for a combination punch of soul and blues. Broussard said of his decision to create a blues album:
“It’s not really my field of expertise.” But when he decided blues would make up a big part of the new addition to the S.O.S. series, he knew whom to ask for assistance: Joe Bonamassa. “I couldn’t think of a better person than him. I reached out directly to Joe, and he jumped at it. It was just that easy. It’s a really complementary relationship, that’s for sure,” he says. “We got into the studio, and it worked immediately.”
With the background all in place, it’s time to have a listen to the tracks.
1) I’ve Got to Use My Imagination featuring Joe Bonamassa
A strong starter, a bit of funk infused blues. It has a strong vocal, kind of dirty with that bit of gravel thrown into the mix. I liked the underlying beat that lay under the mix too. It is a cover of the great American blues man Bobby Blue Bland.
2) I’d Rather Drink Muddy Water
Some guitar and keyboard play here. I don’t know why, but it reminded me a little of being in a downtown club pre-smoking ban and seeing the performer through the bourbon bottle. Old style blues.
3) That’s What Love Will Make You Do featuring Joe Bonamassa
This one is kicking it with some seventies infused sound, it’s a cover of a Little Milton track. Again, I liked some of the background instrumentalization, and it sounds like the guys had a blast making it.
4) Cuttin’ In featuring Roddie Romero
Roddie Romero brings in the musical culture of South Louisiana, in a song that returns to a traditional blues tale of romance and trauma.
Dreamer is very much as it says, it is a dreamy track with some laid back and smooth guitar. It is late night music with a coffee. As the singer notes, they have only learned to regret and the lyrics remain on a bluesy, melancholy path.
6) Empire State Express
A change of direction here with a song that seems to be almost dragging itself from note to note, held back somehow. I was not, personally, a fan of this one, calling it “express” seemed the very antithesis of the nature of the track. Not for me, but I move on!
7) Love, The Time Is Now featuring Bobby Junior
This was nice, a beautiful vocal. That swaying instrumental behind it and the haunting background vocals made for easy listening pleasure. The track is well constructed and connects to the soul.
8) I Asked for Water featuring JJ Grey
We return to the deep South on a dry desert day. I liked the deeper vocals, and the vocal performance here is a powerful one. The lyrics are stripped down to the basics, and the harmonica is a great touch.
9) I Like to Live the Love featuring Eric Krasno
A bit more upbeat, I could dance to this one around the kitchen! It is a good feelgood track, and it was my favourite really on the album, it is the one I would go back to and have on my playlist. The back harmony was enjoyable, and (as a fan of gospel music), I detected a touch of that here. Reviews are always subjective, I accept that, but from this album, this is one I will hold onto. There was a bit of Philly soul there too, and I like that.
10) Locked Up in Jail (Prison Blues) featuring Josh Smith
Well…being locked up inside for something you didn’t do is a pretty miserable experience for anyone. This one is interesting, with the cymbals coming to the fore in the mix. It is a slow, mournful track, as befits the subject.
11) Driving Wheel featuring Joe Bonamassa
We pick up again with a nice funky number, again nodding to Philly soul and the seventies.
12) When Will I Let Her Go featuring Joe Bonamassa
The album finishes strongly with one of the best tracks on the album. This is classy, smooth blues with all the best touches of harmony and another great vocal performance.
On assessment of the whole, my three favourites were “I’ve Got to Use My Imagination,” “When Will I Let Her Go,” and “I Like to Live the Love.” Those three will be revisited and added to my playlist right away. This is overall a really powerful vocal album, classic blues with those touches of soul that lift it up; there is a lot to like.
There is a tour on the way as well! The details are all here on the website.
By Stevie Ritson
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