CD Pick! Royal Southern Brotherhood
The debut album of Royal Southern Brotherhood (Ruf Records), which hit the street on May 8, is one of the most exciting releases of the year, and that’s only slightly due to the hype that preceded it. The lion’s share of the credit flat out goes to the band, Royal Southern Brotherhood: Cyril Neville, Devon Allman , Mike Zito, Charlie Wooten and Yonrico Scott.
The Royal moniker and lineage are both a lot to live up to for a group formed barely six months ago, but RSB is a musical gestalt of sorts and their self-titled,12-track recording delivers in a big way.
Cyril Neville is a master of funk and soul, bringing with him his considerable contributions to the Meters, Soul Machine and others, including of course the iconic Neville Brothers, of which he is the youngest.
If that’s not enough royalty for you, add Devon Allmanto the mix, son of Gregg Allman, nephew of
Duane Allman and leader of his own sweetly fierce Honey Tribe. Devon brings some rockin’ guitar licks to the show, which bring to mind his legendary uncle even more so than his daddy.
Also on guitar is hard rockin’ bluesman Mike Zito, whose “Pearl River,” co-written with Cryil Neville, earned a 2009 Blues Music Award for Song of the Year.
Lest you think the rhythm section is just there to add fill, Charlie Wooten on bass and Yonrico Scott on drums are at once badass and in the pocket. Wooten is known for jamming with the Woods Brothers and his own Zydefunk, which has been called a gumbo of Louisiana grooves. Yonrico Scott earned a Grammy with the Derek Trucks Band, has played with the Allman Brothers, Col. Bruce Hampton and has his own band.
Royal Southern Brotherhood is a powerful blend of personalities and sound. The synergy between players is evidenced in every tune.
Opening track, “New Horizon,” is also the first single, released on video and all over Facebook back in March.
The in-your-face harmonies are spot on, and set the tone for the CD. The combination of Cyril’s soulful vocals, Devon’s power and the gritty appeal of Mike Zito is as good as it gets. Devon’s wailing on his Gibson. Charlie and Yonrico are laying down a groove. Great way to begin.
“Fired Up” is a Wooten/Neville composition and this band is fired up. This tune brings it on. Hard to sit still. The sweet and soulful “Left My Heart In Memphis,” penned by Devon Allman is the album’s third track, followed by “Moonlight Over the Mississippi,” written by Cyril Neville and Mike Zito. Neville’s soul-dripped vocals are a stand-out.
On “Ways About You,” written by Mike Zito and Cyril Neville, you have to appreciate the combined talent of the band – Zito’s raw bluesy vocal, the harmonies, Yonrico in the pocket, the plaintive guitar of Devon Allman all emphasize the utter sadness of the song.
The musical chemistry is so strong among this band, it’s interesting to note how they came together. It was all Reuben Williams’ idea. Reuben is the owner of Thunderbird Management Co. out of Larose, La. He had originally formed his company to manage Tab Benoit. Then came Monk Boudreaux and Anders Osborne.
In a telephone interview, Reuben told me, “I like to put people together on projects. It keeps things interesting.”
So he gets Boudreaux and Osborne to record together for Shanachie Records. Then he created the Voice of the Wetlands All-Stars (his clients Benoit, Osborne and Boudreaux plus Cyril Neville and Johnny Sansone).
Mike Zito joins Reuben’s client roster, and suggests that Devon and Reuben might be a good fit. Next thing you know, Reuben is looking at this group of artists, all of whom have other groups and projects underway, and the wheels start turning. Royal Southern Brotherhood is born.
Other tracks include the Grateful Dead’s “Fire On the Mountain,” a great surprise, by the way; “Gotta Keep Rockin’,” an anthem-type Allman/Neville piece featuring Devon on lead vocal; Zito’s “Hurts My Heart,” which is a favorite of mine; “Sweet Jelly Donut” by Cyril Neville (I bet this is a great live performance); Allman’s vocal and guitar showcase “Nowhere to Hide;” “All Around the World,” written by Mike Zito; and the instrumental closer, “Brotherhood.”
Royal Southern Brotherhood is a supergroup in the making. You may not know it yet, but you want to see them live, and you want this CD. Visit their website: http://www.royalsouthernbrotherhood.com and go to my blog for a recent interview with them: darielb.wordpress.com.
Tracks: New Horizon(Neville/Zito), Fired Up (Wooten/Neville), Left My Heart In Memphis (Allman), Moonlight Over the Mississippi (Zito/Neville), Fire On the Mountain (Hart/Hunter), Ways About You (Zito/Neville), Gotta Keep Rockin (Allman/Neville), Nowhere to Hide (Allman), Hurts My Heart (Zito), Sweet Jelly Donut (Neville), All Around the World (Zito), Brotherhood (Allman/Neville /Zito/ Wooton/Scott)
Album credits: Cyril Neville (vocals, percussion); Devon allman (vocals, guitar), Mike Zito (vocals, guitar), Charlie Wooten (bass guitar), Yonrico Scott (drums), Jim Gaines (producer), David Farrell (engineer), Brad Blackwood at Euphonic Masters (mastering), Thomas Ruff (executive producer), Reuben M. Williams (associate producer), Dockside Studio (recording), Jerry Moran at NativeOrleanian.com (photography).