Nothing gives us greater pleasure than to plug the debut album of a hometown group. Durand Jones & The Indications coalesced around a common love of gritty Southern soul and Delta blues by students at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music. The four core members of the band—Aaron Frazer (drums, vocals), Blake Rhein (guitars), Kyle Houpt (bass), and Justin Hubler (organ, electric piano)—are all graduates of the JSOM Recording Arts Department and performed together in the promising blues-rock band, Charlie Patton’s War. Durand Jones—classical saxophone player by day, soul shouter by night—earned a master’s degree in music while also playing with the award winning Kenari Quartet. The NOLA-born musician was raised in his father’s hometown of Hillaryville, LA (population 750), where he sang traditional gospel in the choir at the local Baptist church, studied classical music, and played sax in his high school jazz band, receiving the Louis Armstrong Award.
These multi-talented forces collided a couple of years ago, when Rhein and Jones both had gigs with the legendary IU Soul Revue (founded, incidentally, by Dr. Portia K. Maultsby, who later went on to found the Archives of African American Music and Culture, home of Black Grooves). Rhein approached Jones and convinced him to front Charlie Patton’s War for a basement show, and a new version of the band was born—later christened Durand Jones & The Indications—which also includes members of the Soul Revue horn section (how fantastic that college students are still taught to be soulful!).
On their self-titled album of original songs, released on Ohio’s Colemine label, the band opens with one of their strongest tracks, “Make a Change.” This is old-school stuff in the very best sense—funky and hard driving, with organ riffs and raw vocals channeling soul singers several generations removed. Frazer lays down a steady groove on “Smile,” which gives the horn section a workout. This is followed by the slow burner “Can’t Keep My Cool,” a strong track that lets Jones stretch his vocal and emotional range. Things just keep getting better on “Groovy Babe,” a song guaranteed to shake up the dance floor, with Frazer given a chance to shine with a drum solo, while Jones shouts to the rafters. “Giving Up” is a classic break-up song with a sound straight out of the Stax studio—one can even imagine that Booker T (another IU alum) is sitting in on the B3. On “Is It Any Wonder,” Frazer takes over on vocals, injecting a softer, more tender timbre, enhanced with a bit of reverb. Jones comes back in full force on “Now I’m Gone,” a tour de force of heartache and disappointment that might unleash a few tears. The album closes with “Tuck ‘N’ Roll,” a rocking instrumental that showcases the band, in particular Justin Hubler on organ.
One can’t help but make a comparison to other soul singer fronted bands, like Charles Bradley (also reviewed in this issue). Let’s hope Durand Jones & The Indications are able to continue and achieve that level of success, now that members have graduated and scattered to different parts of the country (Frazer is now gigging in Brooklyn, and Rhein is employed by Numero Record Group in Chicago). We might be in luck, since a tour is apparently in the works, and Jones is already writing songs for a follow-up album, which might also find him “channelling his inner King Curtis” on sax. Meanwhile, locals might find Jones sitting in with his other regular groups, including the Jefferson Street Parade Band, Black Acid Orchestra, and the Liberation Music Collective.
*The limited edition blue vinyl sold out prior to the release date, but you’ll be able to cop a black vinyl edition in the near future.
Reviewed by Brenda Nelson-Strauss
Original post and audio can be found here on Blackgrooves.org