August 28, 2004

MARC BROUSSARD -- CARENCRO

Marc Broussard.jpg

Inconsistent material, identity issues plague disc

It seems in this current musical climate that the blending of different styles is par for the course.

If a band can combine pop-rock and classic soul music, plus be blessed with a little luck, it can have a winning, commercially successful formula (see Maroon 5). With the release of his major-label debut, Carencro (Island), 22-year-old Marc Broussard offers up a similar version of the mix.

Broussard kicks off the album with what may possibly be the best leadoff track in recent memory, at least from a new-ish artist. "Home" has everything going for it: muddy slide guitar (courtesy of Sonny Landreth), Delta blues delivery and a great gospel stomp-and-clap backbeat. It's the type of ambitious track that an album should be built around, but as an opening track, it may set the bar too high.

Sure enough, apart from the R&B horn-blasted "Come Around" that's in the middle of the album, the rest of Carencro never stacks up and fails drastically in some parts. Case in point is the second song, "Rocksteady." Bland lyrics and phony-sounding wah-wah guitar drag this one down to the level of a John Mayer soundalike; that was most likely the intention, given the Louisiana native's Abercrombie & Fitch model good looks and closeness in age to Mayer.

The style-flipping becomes the ultimate downfall of the album, as Broussard apes vocal scats like a boy-bander, performing with a live band for the first time just to show that he has "white-boy soul." This is evident on the first single "Where You Are." He abandons the soulful vocal rasp he used on the standout tracks for a more flat-sounding tone that doesn't showcase any semblance of range. Unfortunately, this forces the listener to focus on the lyrics, which are cheap clichés that are wrapped around acoustic strumming.

In his defense, the blame may not fall solely on Broussard's shoulders. He has quite a few recognizable collaborators along for the rocky ride, including songwriting help from Sheryl Crow collaborators Jeff Trott and Tim Smith, as well as folk rockers Martin Sexton and Radney Foster. Writing accessible songs with easy-to-follow concepts and melody is one thing, but cranking out material this inconsistent is a disappointment.

Broussard never really hits the lyrical and vocal stride that allows the listener to believe anything he's saying. On the track "Hope for Me Yet," he seems to borrow the theme of "the girl gives the guy inspiration" from a romantic-comedy movie script and not from his own emotions.

Hopefully, with a little bit of success comes a bit of focus in his future projects. If he realizes his true strength lies in powerful, soulful rock, then he's a contender. But if he continues to flounder within an unfocused marriage of styles, then it may be a tough load to haul.

-- By Mike Madden

Posted by medleyville at August 28, 2004 11:28 AM
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