ACL Review: Durand Jones & the Indications
Indiana soul throwbacks hit their marks despite no hits
By Michael Toland,
8:35AM, Sun. Oct. 14, 2018
Every few years, a new band channels Stax, Motown, and old school soul as if Prince never happened. Borderline racist cartoons like St. Paul & the Broken Bones can’t fill the footwear of the late Sharon Jones and Charles Bradley, but maybe Bloomington’s Durand Jones & the Indications, whose debut found new life via a reissue on local imprint Dead Oceans, can.
After a well-received set on the second Saturday of ACL Fest, the jury is still out. Jones has the goods, with a perfectly gritty baritone he uses masterfully, keeping histrionics to a minimum (but not entirely absent) and letting feeling flow. The Indications expertly hit their marks, utilizing no flash whatsoever, and drummer/second singer Aaron Frazer demonstrated a silky falsetto in the Russell Tompkins, Jr. tradition.
The songwriting, however, didn’t quite reach the heights of the young quintet’s forefathers.
Mid-tempo groover “Make a Change” and stripped-down ballad “True Love” proved solid and capable, while slow burner “Can’t Keep My Cool” raised some temperatures. Notably, however, the band doesn’t yet have that one killer track that will kick the door open.
Unsurprisingly, the best tunes were covers, particularly a sizzling take on Curtis Mayfield’s “If There’s a Hell Below, We’re All Going to Go,” recast as James Brown-style speed funk, and a sublimely soulful, set-closing version of the Beatles’ “Don’t Let Me Down.” Once Jones and company come up with the catalog to match their sonic mastery, they’ll be contenders.