Review: Marc Broussard Gets the Blues for Another ‘Save Our Souls’ Release

Marc Broussard
S.O.S. 4:Blues for Your Soul
(Keeping the Blues Alive)
3 1/2 out of 5 stars

Videos by American Songwriter

The dividing line between soul and blues can be awfully thin. So much so that the term “soul/blues” is used to describe such artists as Robert Cray, Keb’ Mo,’ Little Milton, Delbert McClinton, and too many more to list. Buddy Guy’s 2013 double album, Rhythm & Blues, included one disc dedicated to blues and the other to soul. Even acknowledged blues veteran B.B. King had plenty of smoother vocal-oriented moments in his lengthy career.

So it comes as little surprise that contemporary soul singer/songwriter Marc Broussard would flip to full-blown blues mode, which is what he (mostly) does here. On the fourth volume in an ongoing series of covers titled S.O.S.  (Save Our Soul), he invites the ubiquitous Joe Bonamassa to not only play on and co-produce the project, but release it on his Keeping the Blues Alive label.

The combination clicks because neither Bonamassa nor Broussard strictly follows any specific approach in their own careers. Broussard’s soul creeps into pop and folk, Bonamassa rocks out, infuses some progressive elements, and even has a jazz-funk side project. Not surprisingly, this dozen-track, 52-minute set isn’t as strictly blues based as the advance publicity and the singer’s notes claim it to be.

Still, with tracks written or associated with such acknowledged icons as John Lee Hooker (the relatively obscure “Locked Up in Jail” goes full raw swamp to striking effect), Howlin’ Wolf (Broussard tries to emulate Wolf’s gruff vocals and brings in J.J. Grey to assist for an edgy “I Asked for Water but She Gave Me Gasoline”) and Son House (an overly aggressive “Empire State Express”), Broussard and Bonamassa resolutely promote and expose the music from some towering figures of the genre.

But elsewhere, songs made famous by Johnny Taylor, Bobby Womack, Johnny “Guitar” Watson, Al Green, Bobby “Blue” Bland, the aforementioned Little Milton (two from each), and King, all who often lean more into soul than blues, shift Broussard closer to the music he’s most comfortable with. The disc’s one original, the closing “When Will I Let Her Go” enhanced with strings, also doesn’t shove the singer far from his usual style.

Regardless, Broussard is in a fine, tough voice throughout, the arrangements are classy and Bonamassa’s always professional hand creates a dense sonic sheen that only occasionally feels commercially driven.

Selections such as Bland’s opening “I’ve Got to Use My Imagination” (also a hit for Gladys Knight and the Pips) with guitarists Eric Krasno and Bonamassa, erupt with stirring performances. Broussard takes on Green for a thumping “Driving Wheel,” helped by Bonamassa’s solo, turning in a fiery vocal. We could have done without the strings sweetening up Womack’s “Love, the Time Is Now,” but Broussard gets a break for uncovering a relatively hidden gem. 

So it’s not totally blues. All involved are clearly invested, the playing is consistently on point and often inspired, and the proceeds are for a good cause (some go to Bonamassa’s Keeping the Blues Alive foundation).

This isn’t for hardcore blues lovers but rather those in Broussard’s audience likely new to these songs, who might become curious enough to seek out the originals after hearing these mostly impressive, always enthusiastic versions. 

Photo courtesy Lucia Media Group   

Leave a Reply

guitar essentials master class

Guitar Essentials: This Masterclass Kicks Off Soon!