Photo Credit Jeff Fasano
Review by Ian Cameron
Once upon a time, back in 1978, Whitesnake included a song called ‘Ain’t No Love In The Heart Of The City’ on their Snakebite EP. It was a resonant introduction to the work of Bobby ‘Blue’ Bland, and when I later heard the work of the man himself I was pretty smitten with his warm, soulful, bluesy delivery. I’ve had a liking for voices in a rich, soul-drenched vein ever since.
All of which makes me a prime candidate to lap up the singing of Marc Broussard, when he opens up his latest album S.O.S. 4: Blues For Your Soul with an aching, pulsing take on Bland’s ‘I’ve Got To Use My Imagination’. Broussard absolutely nails it, and co-producer Joe Bonamassa follows his example with a taut, evocative guitar solo. It’s a vibe effortlessly recaptured on the closing ‘When Will I Let Her Go’, the one original on offer.
With just that one new song among the 12 tracks here, it’s fair to say that if you’re looking for something ground-breaking then step right along, ‘cause this album ain’t it. But what might be lacking in novelty is made up for in quality.
Johnny ‘Guitar’ Watson’s waltz-like ballad ‘Cuttin’ In’ is given a relaxed and romantic reading that stands comparison with the excellent version by Sean Costello, with pinging guitar licks from guest Roddie Romero played off against sweeping strings. Love, The Time Is Now’ mines an even softer soul seam just as effectively, with Broussard effortlessly evoking a Sam Cooke vibe. It’s not all sensitively lovelorn stuff though….The spikier blues of ‘I Asked Her For Water’ is one of the highlights, as Broussard digs out a suitably Wolf-ish growl, counterpointed by some moaning harp courtesy of JJ Grey. Also at the tougher end of the spectrum is ‘Locked Up In Jail (Prison Blues)’, which is as primitively low key and insistent as you might expect from a John Lee Hooker song, studded with shivering guitar from co-producer Josh Smith, and with a wearily reflective vocal from Broussard. Meanwhile ‘I’d Rather Drink Muddy Water’starts out easy, with tinkling piano, and laid-back guitar and vocals, it gets revved up more on the second verse, then swings and punches in big band style on the third, prefacing a jazzy, low end piano solo and some stinging guitar. There’s a horn backdrop on ‘Driving Wheel’ too, which rolls along behind the beat in swaggering style, with Broussard getting soulful in increasingly agitated, testifyin’ fashion, and Bonamassa knocking out a solo with bite.
But here’s the thing. In the PR bumf for this album, Marc Broussard says that while blues is in his wheelhouse, “It’s not really my field of expertise”. Well, you could have fooled me. S.O.S. 4: Blues For Your Soul – and boy is that a cumbersome title – showcases a guy who is vocally right up there with the classic blues’n’soul groaners, moaners and crooners. Bobby ‘Blue’ Bland would be impressed, never mind me.
S.O.S. 4: Blues For Your Soul is out now on KTBA Records, and can be ordered here.