Rick Broussard – Shadow Man
Equal parts ragin’ Cajun, Buddy Holly sincerity and punk sneer, Rick Broussard offers a synthesis that is unique and uncalculated. One never gets the sense that he is following a trend or responding to roots-rock fashion; he seems instead to be playing the only music he can, the music that’s in his blood.
Broussard’s hot-blooded impulsiveness both sets him apart and has set his career back. In his former incarnation as frontman for Austin’s Two Hoots and a Holler, his alcohol-fueled performances were so unpredictable that on inspired nights the music would soar toward honky-tonk heaven, while others would find him mired in self-destructive hell. For all of his raw potential, some fans have called Broussard the biggest underachiever in Austin music — a guy forever relegated to local clubs while lesser talents achieve higher profiles — while others simply call him Trouble.
Billed as a solo album, Shadow Man is actually Broussard’s first with his new band, since dubbed the Shadow Men, whose nucleus was formerly Mojo Nixon’s Toad Liquors. Though the results suffer from the flatness of the production (by Broussard) and some tentativeness within the band’s interplay, the material attests to the depth of Broussard’s tortured soul. Rather than settling for revivalism or roots-rock ready-mades, he opens a confessional vein on songs such as “Hall of Pain” (which aspires toward Orbisonesque grandeur), “There Is No Song” and “Don’t Wind Up Alone.” Inspirational verse from the latter: “I try to do the best I can / I pray to God to let me understand / My gaze is fixed on the Texas land / Nothing matters except this bottle in my hand / Anymore.”
While the album lacks the dynamism of club performances — in which piano pounder Pete Gordon plays Jerry Lee Lewis to Broussard’s Buddy Holly/Bobby Fuller — “The Boys” gives a taste of the musical mayhem this band can commit. Setting some profane doggerel by e.e. cummings to a propulsive Texas twang, Broussard sings, “The boys I mean are not refined / They cannot talk about that and this / They drink themselves ’til they are blind / They kill like you would take a piss.”
Rave on, Ricky!