March 9, 2023

I have to admit that Marc Broussard’s name is a new one to me, and that’s a crying shame, because he is really, really good. However, the Louisiana soul and blues practitioner might still have been a closed book to me, were it not for the coming together of several circumstances at once. Firstly, he has made a practise over the years of interspersing his standard recordings with charity albums, in which a large part of the proceeds go to worthy causes. This began with his Bootleg to Benefit the Victims of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, before he started his own S.O.S. Foundation in 2015. This organization has been behind three albums up to now: S.O.S: Save Our Soul in 2007, on behalf of a homeless women’s and children’s shelter, S.O.S. 2: Soul on a Mission in 2016 for a Louisiana children’s hospital, and S.O.S. 3: A Lullaby Collection in 2019, a charity covers album with an accompanying book. When he decided to do a fourth one, he found a willing collaborator in Joe Bonamassa, whose own charitable Keeping The Blues Alive (KTBA) Foundation aids youth rehabilitation through music, in partnership with the Miami-based charity Guitars Over Guns.

Photo by Jeff Fasano

And thus we have S.O.S. 4: Blues For Your Soul, in which Broussard immerses himself in the blues, under the Production partnership of Bonamassa and Josh Smith, and released through Bonamassa’s KTBA label, which raises Broussard’s profile over a much wider geographical range. And let’s not mince words here, this is a superb album, mostly of classic covers. Broussard has a terrific, coarse sandpaper voice, coupled with tremendous vocal technique – his vocal phrasing is reminiscent of Robin Trower’s late vocalist James Dewar, one of the greatest and most underrated of rock singers in my opinion. All he needs is a great band, and this is handed to him on this set for sure, with a raft of special guests, some of whom are well-known, some not so much, on this side of the pond at least. The magic fires up straight from the opener (and second single), Bobby ‘Blue’ Bland’s I’ve Got To Use My Imagination – a slow, minor-key blues-rock number with horn backing, augmented by some imaginative drumming and bubbling keyboard textures, and featuring a nice answer-back guitar duet at the end from Bonamassa and New York guitarist Eric Krasno – check out the video at the foot of this page.

But even this fine start is put in the shade by track 2, a groovy, jazzy rendition of Lou Rawls’ I’d Rather Drink Muddy Water, with twinkling piano underneath and a dramatic band drop for a tremendous piano solo. Little Milton cover That’s What Love Will Make You Do is the lead single and features Bonamassa again as guest guitarist; this one is a mid-tempo, funky, soul 12-bar, driven along by a beautiful bass rhythm and superb drumming; a great guitar solo from Joe is an extra bonus. Cuttin’ In featuring Roddie Romero is a very retro, 1950s-style ballad in triplet time, featuring an incisively clear guitar tone in keeping with the style. This is followed by Dreamer, a laid-back, smooth ballad that alternates between a minor key and an ambient major, with a flowing backing riff on heavily chorused guitar and a sweet guitar solo too.

Son House’s Empire State Express is a bit of a strange number to be truthful; the stumbling rhythm sits halfway between a shuffle and a straight 4-4, which is a fancy trick if you can do it. John Lee Hooker seems to be the main influence here, but just before the three-minute mark it gradually speeds up to manic levels, then suddenly stops dead. We are back to ballad territory for Love, The Time Is Now featuring Bobby Junior; slow and soulful with a rim-shot rhythm in waltz time, and a lush background vocal wash. I Asked For Water featuring JJ Grey is a grindingly slow, chain-gang style rendition of the Howlin’ Wolf classic, featuring backing blues harp from Dennis Gruenling and Broussard doing a passable impression of the Wolf. The next song is more JJ Grey’s usual style though, the upbeat and uplifting soul number I Like To Live The Love, but this one again features Eric Krasno. Locked Up In Jail featuring Josh Smith is another unusual number; a plodding, slow blues all on one chord, with a crashing cymbal-based rhythm, reminiscent of chain-gang style blues. Joe Bonamassa features on the final two songs, the mid-tempo chugger Driving Wheel, with its guitar riff and horn backing, and the rather downbeat minor key soul number When Will I Let Her Go. Still, this song has uplifting, almost joyful passages which justify its position as the album closer.

It’s a pretty varied set, and it’s possible that not every track will hit the spot for every listener, but the whole gamut is pulled together by excellent musicianship and Broussard’s wholly impressive vocals. As always, Bonamassa and Smith’s golden touch is guaranteed to get the project into the ears of the buying public, hopefully with some benefit to the musicians and the charities concerned.

S.O.S. 4: Blues For Your Soul by Marc Broussard is out now via Keeping The Blues Alive Records (KTBA).

A portion of proceeds will be donated to Keeping The Blues Alive Foundation to support youth rehabilitation through music.