MTSU alumnus Josh Buck’s music features a blend of R&B, soul, blues and pop to create something that sounds like it came straight out of Muscle Shoals. The sound takes root at the very start of the Memphis-based musician’s debut EP, The J. Buck Experience.
The project’s opening interlude is a short and gritty one-minute cut that finds Buck, a former member of local neo-soul group Mocha Latte, repeating the refrain of “I walk alone” over a stomping, Southern rock and funk-inspired guitar riff. The rock influence is even more prevalent on the following tracks “Make You Stay” and “In Need.” Both feature lyrics about relationships coming to an end, but give off two different vibes. “In Need” is a bluesy rocker with call and response vocals and a ripping guitar solo that would sound right at home pouring out of B.B. King’s or the Rum Boogie Cafe on Beale Street. “Make You Stay” features a soaring R&B/pop chorus that steps away from the Southern-rock influences and hints at the vibe of the EP’s second half.
Midway through the EP, the stylistic focus shifts from rock and blues to R&B, soul and gospel. On the album closer, “God Is Good,” Buck’s passionate vocals cruise atop piano, with a hint of blues guitar in the back of the mix. A religious element also pops up on the track “Somebody,” a melodically strong, mid-tempo cut with a blend of R&B vocals, bluesy instruments and a reflective lyric:
Somebody up there loves me
I can tell by the way my heart beats
Somebody up there cares for me
I can tell by the way I breathe.
The EP’s mid-point comes on the track “What We Gon’ Do?” a ballad focusing on the hardships the world faces delivered in a style akin to What’s Goin’ On-era Marvin Gaye. J. Buck may not yet be at the same level as Marvin Gaye and the like, but you can tell that’s where he’s striving to be, and The J. Buck Experience is a solid first step in that direction.