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Air-Conditioned Familiarity

Marc Broussard (CD sampler on Island/Def Jam label)
Marc Broussard

By Jason Daniel

Marc Broussard is the latest phenom in the ever-growing group of talented 20-something singer-songwriters who turn out mature music that belies their years. Broussard has something going for him, however, that might just distinguish from the pack - a hefty dose of funky soul. Maybe it's his Louisiana roots, but Broussard made me do a double take when I popped in this CD sampler, which features five live tracks with Broussard on guitar, backed by a stellar band. I couldn't believe I was listening to a 21-year old white kid.

This group of songs shows some variety - there's some mid-tempo funk ("Blue Jeans"), some straight-ahead pop ("Start Over Again") and the requisite sentimental acoustic number ("French Café"). The closing track, "Just Like That" is the standout, as Broussard delivers some soulful scat singing while playing "question and answer" with his brother Ted, who plays electric guitar throughout. It's all good stuff and there's no doubt that Broussard moves the crowd. He has a gifted voice and knows it. And he's in touch with his roots.

And there's the rub - Broussard sounds great, but you find yourself thinking "Hey that sounds like ..." quite often. The lyrics follow the typical pattern of love lost and found and Broussard occasionally has a tendency to milk the notes a bit too much. It doesn't approach American Idol territory and maybe it's the vibe of live venue, but Broussard risks becoming a gimmick if he relies too much on his gift. Personally, I'd prefer a little more subtlety, but then it's been a long time since I was 21 and perhaps I've forgotten what's it's like to be full of youthful verve.

Don't get me wrong - if you're a fan of polished soul singing with a dose of funk, you'll definitely like this. However, if you like your soul dirty and on the sweaty side, steer clear. This is air-conditioned. As for me, I'm waiting for Broussard's full-length CD so I can hear something I haven't heard before.