By Robert Goldberg | October 06, 2023
With his smooth, gospel-inspired vocal harmonies and tight soul and R&B beats, Durand Jones transported Brooklyn Bowl to what felt like a small-town, southern kickback during Mardi Gras on Thursday night. Touring to promote his debut solo LP, Wait Til I Get Over, Jones shares the narrative of his hometown, Hillaryville, Louisiana. In the album, he eloquently details his musical journey and life experiences, shedding light on his upbringing near the bayou in a town initially established as a form of reparations for previously enslaved Black Americans. It’s an incredibly moving story – Jones struggles with his urge to leave his complex town but feels the need to pay homage to his roots with motifs of discovering love and making something out of nothing. Needless to say, everything from doo wop like ballads to spoken word combined with transcendent lyrics made for a soulful and esteemed tone for the night.
The lights dimmed and the crowd cheered as the band started the night with very jazzy undertones of ominous drum and bass straight into smooth saxophone grooves and soft signing from Mr. Jones. His voice is reminiscent of great artists like Smokey Robinson and Sam Cooke, as his vocal delivery is marked by a perfect blend of power and gentleness, capable of moving from a whisper to a resounding crescendo in the blink of an eye. He demonstrated this incredible vocal prowess during the track “That Feeling,” a romantic ballad which speaks about the first time he loved another man, further entrenching the audience into a very specific emotional sentiment. Jones continued his soulful serenade with an interlude, “The Place You’d Most Want to Live:”
“If you follow the Mississippi River as she swivels and turns tightly — unable to move freely because of the levy, you’ll find Hillaryville. A small place in Louisiana’s Atchafalaya basin. This place was founded by eight slaves who received it as a form of reparations after the American Civil War. Most visitors are still greeted by the tall, sprite green, green sugar cane basking in the presence of the sun. When asking my Gran ‘What was it like’ when she first moved to Hillaryville, her reply was always the same: ‘The place you’d most want to live.’”
The next song sharply contrasted the interlude, as Jones played the lead single on his new album, “Lord Have Mercy;” a raw and bluesy knee slapper of a track which details the evolution of Jones’s feelings about Hillaryville as a place you’d want to escape.
The night continued with lullaby-like compositions, cheerful dancing, and R&B bliss, all bolstered by Jones’s strong stage presence. Whether we were at Sunday Mass or a 1960s high school prom dance, there was no way to tell. Either way, we could feel the entire crowd levitating and swaying to the pure embodiment of choral smoothness.
Other notable tracks during the night included “Someday We’ll All Be Free,” which Jones began by advocating for equality for all. He spoke how healthcare and education should be intrinsic rights, saying, “It should all be free! Someday we’ll all be free.” The encore began with another beautifully sung R&B bop and turned into an all out reggae dance party which included a cover of “I’m Still In Love With You” by Marcia Aitken.
Durand Jones is an unforgettable performer that will fill you with intoxicating emotions of sweetness and loving. He truly puts the crowd in a trance as he gently lays down melodies like a feather slowly falling into a calm lake. Go check him out today as he continues to astound crowds with his vintage and graceful musical performances on his North American Tour.