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Jazz / Blues

Marc Broussard

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Some of the greatest albums release with a fanfare of news angles. One might hit the market with a tantalizing personal backstory. Another might signify some kind of career-changing milestone.But...

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Some of the greatest albums release with a fanfare of news angles. One might hit the market with a tantalizing personal backstory. Another might signify some kind of career-changing milestone.But not Marc Broussard, appropriately this unique artist's first self-titled album. The story here is simple yet eloquent: It's great music, pulled from the heart, crafted impeccably and delivered with the deep emotion that has long marked Broussard as one of the great vocalists of our time. More than most artists in the modern spotlight, Broussard achieves a depth in all aspects of his writing and singing through his love for and mastery of tradition. Strong currents of R&B, sanctified church and the many other flavors of his Louisiana bayou home nourish his songs, more so than ever on Marc Broussard. The exhilarating drive of its first single, "Only Everything," the old-school soul, hushed and exultant, of "Lucky," the swampy blues that haunts "Eye on the Prize" and every other track is a lesson in transplanting the seeds of American music into the spirit of today.

What accounts for the intensity, intimacy and ecstasy of Marc Broussard? The answer is simple: "I wasn't on a mission," he says. "This album was just about putting out really strong music." More than that, this is strong music inspired by real life. It's a sign of Broussard's creativity that he is able to find poetry and meaning in everyday experience and translate them into song. "This is as honest as any record I've ever made," he explains. "I wasn't trying to surprise the listener. We just took some of the basic feelings as well as some of the more specific stories surrounding my life and applied them to the lyrics." "We" in this case includes Broussard, his band's drummer Chad Gilmore, bassist and longtime friend Tony Hall, a small team of ace players from Louisiana and Nashville, and a new creative partner in producer Jamie Kenney. "I have to give a lot of credit to Jamie on this record, not only in the production but in the writing," Broussard says. "He definitely pushed me to find what I really wanted to say to people as well as to pull me out of my comfort zone as a singer. He encouraged me to do things I wouldn't normally do, which turned out so well. The things he pushed me to do are what made this record what it is."

Based in Nashville, Kenney also contributed his distinctive keyboard style to the flavor of Marc Broussard. The irresistibly funky piano solo on "Bleeding Heart" shows the producers perfect insight as a musician too into Broussard's feel for texture and expression. "I love writing and working with piano layers because it gives me a fresh look into my music," Broussard says. "And I love letting other people take the reins when it comes to arranging. Jamie comes from the same background as mine: He's from the South. He loves football and talking politics. So working with him was a no-brainer." Kenney also understood that commitment to honesty that defines Marc Broussard. Working together, he and Broussard matched message to music so that each energized the other. As examples, Broussard points to "Let Me Do It Over," a heartfelt plea in a setting that might recall some of the Beatles' most ambitious conceptions; the achingly romantic "Our Big Mistake" ("It was a privilege that I was able to put this song on my record," Broussard says); and "Yes Man," a more humorous account of momentary disagreement. Each of these allows the listener a glimpse not only into Marc's love for his wife but also into similar feelings shared by every couple as they move together through life.

A different relationship provides the basis for "Eye on the Prize," the only song on the album that Broussard had written several years ago. "It was supposed to be on my previous album, Keep Coming Back," he says. "I wrote it with my band on tour because I was on the phone with my son. He was five years old at the time, and he said, 'Dad, I want to be in a working band.' He didn't say 'a band'; he said 'a working band.' That stuck with me, so we fleshed it out in an afternoon before a show. Originally, it was a very smooth R&B song. But toward the end of this project, I wrote the lyrics down and played it on the iPod for Jamie. He took the lyrics into the music room. Ten minutes later he called me in and said, 'Check This Out.' He played what you hear now on the record." For a performer who learned the basics of music from his father, the celebrated Louisiana guitarist Ted Broussard, this song represents a closing of that familial circle.

And having won critical notice with his fusion of gospel, classic R&B and down-home Southern roots at age 20 with his debut Momentary Setback, and built on that foundation through multiple tours, national TV appearances and philanthropic work for Habitat for Humanity, United Way and post-Katrina relief, he brings a more insightful perspective to the passion that has always animated his sound. All of this and more animates the power and passion of this new album. If making great music that connects with us all was the mission, Marc Broussard represents a mission accomplished.