The Doobie Brothers - Southbound
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Southbound (Arista Nashville, 2014)

The Doobie Brothers

Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz

The Doobie Brothers release a self-tribute disc of sorts. The basic idea, which is not groundbreaking, is pairing almost all very well known country acts with the Doobies as they reprise their hits. In most cases, a current act and a Brother - even Michael McDonald, who has sometimes been out of the Doobies' loop, is back - share lead vocals on the same song. As expected, there are hits and misses.

Zac Brown Band gets things off on the right foot with "Black Water," not a surprise given the general similarities between Brown's vocals and that of the guy who sang it originally, Pat Simmons, who assumes some of the lead vocals.

Simmons is not alone in continuing to be a vocal powerhouse. The ever soulful Michael McDonald dominates Sara Evans on "What a Fool Believes," pushing Evans way into the background - not that her delivery doesn't work. Ditto for Toby Keith, who's up to snuff on "Long Train Running," but Johnston owns the song. Huey Lewis' harp playing is a plus. Charlie Worsham closes out the 13-song collection with an easy going, welcome take of "Nobody."

Blake Shelton sounds seriously outclassed by Johnston on "Listen to the Music" where the latter's voice has apparently not aged at all, and Shelton sounds as if he's trying too hard to keep up. He does not.

The songs typically vary little from the originals, although you might not think so from the brief hip hop drum intro to "Black Water" and the heavier handed drumming intro on "China Grove," but those are anomalies. Yes, there are some changes in instrumentation, but don't expect to find any radical reworkings of these chestnuts.

Perhaps the biggest question is what's the need for this kind of release? Cynics may ask if it provides The Doobies with the chance to attract a new audience. There's enough here to like, but ultimately one could return to the originals and be even more satisfied many decades later.

CDs by The Doobie Brothers

Southbound, 2014

©Country Standard Time • Jeffrey B. Remz, editor & publisher •
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