Royal Southern Brotherhood ‘Don’t Look Back: The Muscle Shoals Sessions’ (RUF) 4/5

royal-southern-brotherhoodIf a large dose of southern blues is what you are in search of, then this excellent release should fit the bill admirably.
The brainchild of the project is Cyrille Neville, of Neville Brothers fame, and here he takes on the role of lead vocalist as well as that of percussionist. The emphasis is firmly on strong groove-oriented material, sometimes with a touch of blues-rock, but elsewhere with more soulful hues. The nine piece band sound most convincing in the latter genre and a strong contender for most compelling song is the mid-tempo, ‘It’s Time For Love’, that has an extremely catchy hook. Vying for pole position on the album is ‘Don’t look back’ which has a repetitive banjo riff that lends a quirky and funky air to the music and this is one of the best individual blues songs of the year for sure. A quality soul ballad is in fact a showcase for Cyrille and family member Ivan Neville to shine and this they most certainly do on ‘Better Half’. Funkier flavours abound on the JB influenced number, ‘Hit me once’ while ‘The Big Greasy’ is a brooding combination of funk and rock. All but three of the fourteen songs on offer were co-written by Cyrille Neville and, perhaps, not surprisingly, his native city of New Orleans was always likely to be the subject matters someway along the way and so it proves on the 1970s feel to ‘Bayou baby’ that references various facets of Louisiana popular culture. Guest musicians are of a an especially high calibre and include Devon Allman and Wet Willie. Muscle Shoals in Alabama has been the setting for many a classic soul recording, Aretha Franklin and Wilson Pickett, among the very greatest, and this new album will doubtless feature on many a blues fans end of year highlights. There is even a decent stab at the electric blues on the driving piece, ‘Hard Blues’.

Tim Stenhouse