“If it was never new, and it never gets old, then it’s a folk song,” Oscar Isaac says, as Llewyn Davis in Inside Llewyn Davis as he gets ready to play “Fare Thee Well” in what is the movie’s nexus. An undervalued part of the “All Music All The Time” promise of the Streaming Wars, is that all music feels this way now. The boundaries of time that used to exist between say, Blueface and Otis Redding, are rendered flat at the foot of the almighty algorithm. In the world of your cellular device, soul music is as current and available as the latest Halsey single. Music might have come out a long time ago, but its presence in your life, today, is limited by its availability on streaming platforms and your Wi-Fi signal.
Which is to say that it’s sort of surprising that there aren’t more bands like Durand Jones & The Indications, a group of former University of Indiana students who make music like the Stax Theater at McLemore Theater and Hitsville U.S.A. on Grand Boulevard never closed and became museums. They recorded their 2016 self-titled album for around $450 in beer money and recording tape before hitting the road, garnering fans and enthusiasm from people two or three generations removed from being able to see the Temptations on the road, or see Booker T. slap the shit out of a Hammond. They’re back with American Love Call, their well-considered, wide-ranging sophomore album, a step forward for the group in every conceivable way.
Like any good soul group, Durand Jones & The Indications are defined by the voices that power their backbeat muscle car. And it turns out, with this record, they discovered they have two amazing voices: their titular lead singer, and drummer Aaron Frazer, whose clean, tightrope falsetto is featured on half of the tracks. He’s the perfect foil for Jones, whose earthier tone is like David Ruffin’s if he came up singing Jodeci instead of spirituals, making he and Frazer the Two Tops, vocal foils who play off each other in amazing ways on songs like “What I Know About You” and “How Can You Be Sure.”
But the highlight of American Love Call is in its stylistic breadth in the soul music idiom. The Indications go from protest song (the title track), to coffee-house finger-snappers (“Too Many Tears”), ’50s sock hop prom jams (“Court of Love”) to a torch song with an unreal flute solo (“Walk Away”). There’s clarion call horns (“Listen To Your Heart”) and songs that sound like William Bell deep cuts (“True Love”). There are few new albums that reflect the flattening of eras as this one, an album as home in 2019 as it would have been in 1969.