Did you know that THE DOOBIE BROTHERS still make music? Because – not that I had looked into it – I did not, at least until Spotify suggested “The American Dream” to me in my recommended new releases. This piqued my interested, so when the full album, “Liberté” showed up shortly after on October 1st, 2021, I decided to see what this classic southern rock band has in store for listeners with their newest original album in 7 years!
My first impression of this band was to wonder if this was really THE DOOBIE BROTHERS and not a different, similar band (akin to, for example, the MARSHALL TUCKER BAND). While there are a couple songs on the album that have that same old southern rock flare, a lot of the songs are also diversified, touching on country, indie, pop, and yes, still a bit of rock, but if I were to summarize the flavor of this release, it would be more akin to ALABAMA or even THE NITTY GRITTY DIRT BAND in its country-rock sound. It’s main draws are still the guitar lines and the great vocals by founding members Patrick Simmons and Tom Johnston respectively.
Songs like intro “Oh Mexico” and single “The American Dream” (two personal highlights) and, to a lesser degree, “Don’t You Mess With Me,” are the most representative of the band’s classic style, with funky, catchy guitar lines and a hint of that bouncy, lively bass. “Don’t You Mess With Me” in particular has a slight BTO feel, as it’s got such a positive atmosphere despite the “step off” message. There is also some smooth rock akin Bruce Springsteen in “Better Days,” with that traditional nostalgic American sound.
“Cannonball” was the most surprising song for me, as it sounds and feels perhaps more like an indie-pop song with its simple, driving rhythm and its light but empowering lyrics. The guitar is what keeps it rockin’ in the end, as that DOOBIE BROTHERS style never leaves. This sweet feel-good sound rides over into the equally mid-tempo but peppy “Wherever We Go,” which shines thanks to its chorus; the gentle-yet-empowering “Shine Your Light”; and the delightfully gentle but twiddly “We Are More Than Love.” That last one, in particular, was another highlight for the lyrical concept and because the guitars are so delightful.
“Easy” and “Good Thang” are two more upbeat (but not up-tempo) feel-good songs that might be more appropriate on a country-rock album than a southern rock, but are among the most enjoyable of the album’s tracks to their fresh catchiness and pleasant vibes. The album then wraps up with the slower “Amen Old Friend,” which is a slow and sadder closer to this work, even if it feels more like a positive and hopeful farewell than heartbroken sadness. There is melancholy, but ultimately, it feels like a gracious thank you to old friends, family, and loved ones who may no longer be with us.
If the goal of a THE DOOBIE BROTHERS album is to inspire one to smoke a doobie and get into the rhythm, this album doesn’t deliver on that note, but what it lacks in funky bass lines, it upkeeps in a more mid-tempo country-rock genre. While the album could’ve used some faster bangers, it’s not unreasonable to cut them some slack… their heyday was in the ’70s after all. So if you’re looking for some soft, feel-good rock with strong vocals and great guitars, this album could be just what you need this fall.
- Oh Mexico
- Better Days
- Don’t Ya Mess With Me
- Wherever We Go
- The American Dream
- Shine Your Light
- We Are More Than Love
- Just Can’t Do This Alone
- Good Thang
- Amen Old Friend
Tom Johnston – vocals
Patrick Simmons – guitars