Martinez may follow the same formula of the Kings — covering classic soul music in blue-eyed-soul renditions — but where Legacy came off as a flat-sounding record, Soul of the Bayou jumps out of the speakers. All around, it is a far-better made and far-better sounding record. Here, Martinez’s big voice is backed by a better band –— even though they do share a few members.
Martinez, a veteran of the casino circuit who performed at Donald Trump’s place in Atlantic City for years, came home to Louisiana to make Southern- and swamp pop-influenced music in 2006. Likewise, there’s a lot of soul sounds on these tracks, along with smoky Southern grooves, Delta guitar licks and swamp pop styles added to songs like “Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye,” a classic recorded by Danny White that originally had a Bobby Blue Bland feel. Here, it comes down to the bayou in a version with slight swamp pop touches. Sly & The Family Stone’s “If You Want Me to Stay” opens with a piano treatment but has shades of its original funk plus Southern organ and just a little bit of funkiness.
That being said, the best track on the record is the original “That Old Wind,” which employs Sonny Landreth. Martinez sings, “Standing on the levee/ Waiting on surge/ Takes a hurricane for me to be purged” in a tale of redemption. Sonically — thanks to Landreth — and lyrically, it connects better than the rest of the album. More than the others, you buy what he is selling.
Martinez’s songwriting muscle is not one he often uses, but he should.