Durand Jones & the Indications / Durand Jones

American Love Call

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Most bands on the retro-soul scene seem obsessed with seeing how far they can wander into the past, so it's refreshing that the first track of American Love Call, the second album from Durand Jones & the Indications, reminds us that they're living in America in 2019, a time and place where not everyone is getting a fair deal. "Morning in America" is a concise evocation of a nation where the haves live the good life while poisoned water, drugs, and injustice are sad facts of the have-nots. The lyrics are incisive and the lean, soulful groove of the music recalls a time in the late '60s and early '70s when R&B artists often sang conscious lyrics about life in a divided United States. "Morning in America" is a powerful kickoff for American Love Call, and if none of the other songs cut as deep as a social or political statement, the performances are tough, evocative soul music in the classic East Coast/Chicago style, cool but deeply passionate with top-shelf musicianship and heart-tugging vocals from frontman Durand Jones and drummer Aaron Frazer. American Love Call is the first album this band has recorded in a proper studio, and though the production is cleaner and the arrangements are more ambitious than those on their self-titled 2016 debut, the addition of strings and horns don't clutter the surroundings and instead refine and focus the sound of a band that already had a good thing going. Guitarist Blake Rhein, keyboard man Steve Okonski, bassist Kyle Houpt, and drummer Frazer are a remarkably tight band whose sound is clearly rooted in the past, but the emotions behind it are fresh, as is their enthusiasm and commitment, and there's a rich, beating heart behind this music that's free of affectation. And Jones is a real find as a vocalist, with the grit, range, and temperament to give these songs plenty of life while also filling them with a personality of his own. American Love Call is an outstanding example of how craft and passion can walk hand in hand, and puts Durand Jones & the Indications near the top of the heap in the retro-soul sweepstakes.

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