Durand Jones & The Indications: American Love Call

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Durand Jones & the Indications
American Love Call
(Dead Oceans/Colemine)
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

What year is this anyway? Don’t ask Durand Jones and his band because clearly they think we’re somewhere in the late-’60s/early-’70s, at least based on the retro sound they create.     

This terrific sophomore effort refines the Indiana-based band’s sweet, light-funk Chicago soul that goes down as easy as a spoonful of expensive honey. Although only a four-piece with Jones as primary vocalist, the music is enhanced by swirling strings, wistful vibes, dreamy background singers and an expansive, often lush (flute! harp!) production that makes this seem like the second coming of classic R&B acts like the Spinners, the Manhattans, the Dramatics or the Friends of Distinction. 

It’s an intoxicating mix, highlighted by originals predominantly penned or co-written by drummer/falsetto singer/co-producer Aaron Frazer who is the somewhat hidden, ingredient that helps this act gel. Pick any of the dozen compact songs that unwind leisurely over the disc’s 45 minutes and the effect is the same. The sumptuous groove transports you back to a simpler era, conjuring dim lights, red wine, shag carpeting and a sexy-time quiet storm ambiance that’s as genuine as the organic/analog instruments and voices. It’s the anti-AutoTune, a soothing, rootsy remedy to what passes as contemporary R&B in an increasingly plastic, drum-machined world.   

Opener “Morning In America” is the outlier with both its politicized subject matter (“It’s morning in America/ But I can’t see the dawn”) and a psychedelic guitar solo that mysteriously appears for the final 30 seconds. Neither return as the mood sticks to lost/found/longing for love with Jones playing a gruffer David Ruffin against Frazer’s smoother Eddie Kendricks in a mellifluous Temptations-styled mélange.

Some selections recycle musical and lyrical clichés from the golden age of soul they are emulating. But the album is so beautifully performed and meticulously crafted that its heartfelt, smooch-ready nature will likely result in at least a few babies born nine months after release.

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