It's no surprise Marc Broussard's label creeps into his conversation. The Lafayette native's major-label debut, Carencro, is about to be released on Island/Def Jam, so it's understandable if he talks about how label head L.A. Reid is really supportive, or how "getting signed was a huge step for my camp." He's 22 and doing what most teenagers with real or air guitars one day hoped to do when jumping around in their bedrooms.
Broussard has been on the road for most of the past year. "We've been pounding away on the touring end on Momentary Setback," he says, referring to his independently released first album in 2002. "This winter we finally decided we had enough good material to make a really good record." That record, Carencro, shows off Broussard's husky voice, which recalls Lenny Kravitz at times. It also demonstrates more of the rhythmic snap of Motown singles than you'd expect from someone signed when companies were looking for another Dave Matthews. "Making that record has been the sexiest, most beautiful period of my life," he says. "It was getting in the room with four other guys, six other guys, and making my songs come to life."
But the music business is a funny one, particularly at the major-label level. Though Dave Matthews doesn't possess the public imagination he did a few years back, the next generation of earnest young men with acoustic guitars is a significant part of the musical landscape. "When I got signed a year ago, Jason Mraz was pretty up and coming," Broussard recalls. "John Mayer was on top of the world, Britney Spears was still relatively cool and Justin Timberlake probably had just come out with Justified. They were really crazy times."
What separates Broussard from his peers are the soul elements. "Rocksteady" has the sexy, bouncy groove of a natural summertime single, and there are echoes of Stevie Wonder on "Come Around" and the light, Fender Rhodes and flute-driven "Saturday."
"I learned what soul music was growing up," he says. Listening to his father's records, he heard Wonder, Otis Redding, Marvin Gaye, Donny Hathaway and Aretha Franklin, then began referring to his music as soul music after a conversation with singer Martin Sexton. "A year ago this past April I was doing two shows with him," Broussard says. "I asked him what he called his music and he said, Soul music.' I asked why and he said, Because it's from my heart and from my soul.' It really struck a chord with me because it's true."
Jody Smith has spent a lot time tracking down footage. As a freelancer who does video production work for a living, filming interviews with musicians for Un Heard Of, a new DVD documentary on the New Orleans punk scene from 1990 to 1995, was the easy part. The hard part was finding film and video of bands that, for the most part, flew below the city's musical radar in the days before video cameras weighed as little as grapefruit. "I started in 2001 and finished editing in October 2003," he says. "Then reproduction became a nightmare. Every computer that project touched went to shit."
For Smith, who also drums with The Bad Off and Dash (Rip Rock), the scene around bands like the Black Problem, Nut, Rigid, Nipples of Isis and Evil Nurse Sheila was significant. "It was a really small scene with a neat, communal feel," he says. "There were probably only 100 to 120 people in the scene. Everybody knew each other and the bands knew everyone in the crowd.
"I never could find Black Problem footage," Smith says. "Nut and Rigid were the best at archiving their stuff, and there's a bunch of video for Nipples of Isis." Some of the live footage comes from Louisiana Jukebox, a setting very different from the Warehouse Cafe and The Howlin' Wolf, the homes for the scene. Still, there's something entertainingly weird about seeing Lump's punk-funk-jazz fusion (with Galactic's Ben Ellman on sax) under the soundstage's bright lights as guitarist Lou Thevenot sings, "Bernie Cyrus has the Mad Cow virus / and now he's in Reserve."
World Saxophone Quartet -- Experience (Justin Time): On this album of Jimi Hendrix covers, versions of "Freedom" and "Machine Gun" make explicit the connection between New Orleans brass bands and avant-garde jazz. It's rare to hear anybody locally get as far out as David Murray or Oliver Lake do here, but that's more because the importance of keeping the dance floor moving was written into local bylaws some time in the early '80s. These versions revoice Hendrix's chords as imaginatively as he reconfigured the chords of the bluesmen before him, and they take similar liberties with the songs themselves. "Foxey Lady" sounds a bit thin when all the saxophones play the signature riff in the same register, but during the improvised passages, the four horns merge to create a sound as aggressive, powerful and musical as the feedback and noise central to Hendrix's sound.
- For Marc Broussard, recording Carencro, his new album, was "the sexiest, most beautiful period of my life."