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Marc Broussard 

Singer-songwriter's Credentials As A Classic Soul Artist

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Marc Broussard isn't as well known as the aforementioned roll-call, but he most assuredly shares a good amount of soul with them. Many critics have noted traces of the above-referenced pantheon in Broussard's passionate presentation - from his rasp-to-riches vocals to the rafter-rattling intensity of his live shows. Broussard doesn't take these potentially intimidating comparisons lightly, by any means, because he understands the respect and affection that comes with them.

"I always appreciate it, no matter who someone compares me to," says Broussard via phone. "If somebody says, 'You remind me of Ray Charles or Joe Cocker,' I know they're a fan of that artist, and I take that as a huge compliment. If I remind you of someone you love, that's love, right? And also if somebody says, 'I'm a huge fan of Christina Aguilera, and I think you guys would kill it together,' I take that as a compliment, too, because this person is a fan of that person. That's cool, even if I'm not ever gonna think about doing anything like that."

Broussard has tried to remain true to his Louisiana roots and the influences that guided him on his earlier releases: 2002's Momentary Setback, 2004's Carencro, last year's covers album SOS: Save Our Soul and a handful of EPs. When it came time to make his latest album (and Atlantic Records debut), Broussard felt it was time to channel his visceral stage energy in the studio. The result is the blazing immediacy, soulful intensity and immense satisfaction of Keep Coming Back.

"The approach to recording live is always there from the onset, but it takes a lot of work by some very talented musicians to make a record like Keep Coming Back," says Broussard. "The mode of actually getting the recording was analog and not digital, which is the more popular form today. The selection of musicians was a conscious one by the producers and ultimately the approach to the recording. Whenever the take was done, the take was done. If it sounded good, let's move on."

Clearly, Broussard and his studio team - producers Justin Tockett and Calvin Turner, Broussard's road band and a handful of hired session players - quickly captured sonic lightning in a bottle. The album was recorded in just 11 days, and eight of the album's 12 tracks were first takes, revealing a strong connection between the musicians.

"The band was definitely locked into some special kind of mojo," says Broussard. "There was a fair amount of alcohol being consumed - a shot we like to call Good News: J...germiester and root beer. It's good, it's good. We're on the wagon now. In the studio, you can rock out."

The smooth soul spirit of Keep Coming Back doesn't hint at Broussard's turbulent path on the way to the album. He had completed and delivered an album to his previous label, Island, but President Antonio "L.A." Reid felt that it was the wrong artistic statement for Broussard at the time. Broussard disagreed and asked to be released from his contract.

Having self-released his debut album, Momentary Setback, six years ago, Broussard knew the pitfalls and effort involved in marketing his own work. He had blipped on the radar of Atlantic years ago, when label head Ahmet Ertegun heard him singing with Solomon Burke at a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame tribute concert to Wilson Pickett. Ertegun was so impressed with Broussard that he offered him a slot at the Montreux Jazz Festival. With a foot in the door - namely, a large contingent of former Island employees who had supported his work - Broussard approached Atlantic.

By the time the negotiations were complete, Broussard was content to leave most of the unreleased material on the shelf.

A handful of songs from the album made their way onto Keep Coming Back (the Sara Bareilles duet "Why Should She Wait," "Evil Things," "Real Good Thing," "Hard Knocks"), but the majority of the tracks are newly written. Broussard is clearly happy to be on a label that allows him to make decisions about his direction.

"I had some high expectations for what was to be expected for our first [Atlantic] record, and they were all for it," says Broussard. "They were for everything I wanted when it came down to this record, with the notion that if it didn't do as well as expected, we're gonna keep on trucking, put our head down and put out another record. I just wanted to be true to who I am."

Keep Coming Back is the first new material from Broussard since 2004's Carencro, which paid tribute to his Louisiana hometown. While he was in label limbo, Broussard worked out a one-off deal with Vanguard to release Save Our Soul, a collection of hand-picked R&B covers (Otis Redding's "I've Been Loving You Too Long," Marvin Gaye's "Inner City Blues" and Al Green's "Love and Happiness," among them).

"A month prior was spent on research on my part," he says. "I was buying records left and right, and listening to all these obscure, old-school titles. I would love to do that again. I would love to do another soul record, which is another part of this Atlantic deal. I can make this soul record on another label if I want to."

With a four-year gap between original material (except for one new composition on Save Our Soul), Broussard was anxious to get back to writing his own songs. But one of Keep Coming Back's most distinctive qualities is Broussard's deepening artistic maturity. After just six years (he was only 20 when he released Momentary Setback) and three albums, Broussard sounds like he's prepared to take his place among soul giants.

"Not just as a musician and a writer have I matured, but just as a dude," laughs Broussard.

"As a husband and a father, I've grown up quite a bit. It's a hard thing to describe, growing up, and how you've spent the last six or seven years of your life. But all I can say is, the proof is in the pudding. Listen to 'Another Night Alone.' The maturity is just there."

music@freetimes.com

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