Review: Royal Southern Brotherhood – self-titled

Posted on: Thursday, May 17, 2012

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Royal Southern Brotherhood – self-titled

(Ruf Records: RUF 1180)

At last one of the most anticipated albums of the year is with us, from an outfit which demands attention purely by having an Allman and a Neville in the ranks . . . from two of the US South’s most loved and well known musical families . . . namely Devon Allman, son of Gregg, on guitar and vocals; and Cyril Neville, from the iconic giants of New Orleans music, The Neville Brothers, here featured on vocals and percussion.

The five-piece Royal Southern Brotherhood are completed by the supremely talented Missouri-raised, and now located in Texas, bluesman Mike Zito, on guitar and vocals; the rhythm section comprising seasoned campaigners in bassist Charlie Wooten and drummer Yonrico Scott, who has been in the Derek Trucks Band, played with Greg Allman and also The Allman Brothers Band. With this stellar line-up it is no wonder they have been given the ‘supergroup’ tag!

The 12 cuts here on the self-titled debut cover all bases and are all originals, bar one, written by the band, both individually and collectively – with so much talent in the line-up it’s fair to say that this album delivers big-time and is a joy from start to finish, and beautifully produced by Jim Gaines at the much-lauded Dockside Studios in Maurice, Louisiana.

The opening “New Horizon”, co-penned by Neville and Zito, rides on a funky guitar groove with some snarling solos; and it leads into the excellent “Fired Up!”, with a defined Latin feel to it and some very Santana-ish guitar licks, with delicious vocal chorus. Devon Allman’s “Left My Heart In Memphis” is lovely, and has a lazy, bluesy feel, and is an ode to the mighty Mississippi river and the city itself.

The same subject matter rises for the soulful and funky “Moonlight Over The Mississippi”, with some lovely wah-wah guitar and a great feel from the rhythm section of Wooten and Scott, and a blistering guitar solo added in. The sole cover is a make-over for The Grateful Dead’s “Fire On The Mountain”, penned by Robert Hunter and Mickey Hart, and is given a loose jam-type feel here, with percussion a-plenty from Cyril Neville and more top-notch guitar work.

The ballad “Ways About You” has an aching heartfelt vocal and is a highlight amongst many as it builds as it progresses, with a stunning dual guitar section . . . what fine players both Devon Allman and Mike Zito are! “Gotta Keep Rockin'” may suggest a foot-to-the-pedal number, but it’s not . . . it’s a mid tempo number with another great feel and exemplary playing from all concerned.

Devon Allman’s ‘dust bowl’ blues “Nowhere To Hide” rides on an acoustic slide riff intro before the band kick in; they all rock hard on the following Mike Zito tune “Hurts My Head”, before a direction swerve next on the ‘gumbo groove’ of Cyril Neville’s “Sweet Jelly Donut”, recalling his ‘Crescent City’ home and complete with more lovely slide guitar. This excellent debut release ends with almost a title cut, an instrumental simply called “Brotherhood”, and penned by the whole band . . . it’s a joyous uptempo end that showcases all these fine musicians.

The band head our way later in the year . . . I would suggest they will be pretty unmissable!

GRAHAME RHODES

www.rufrecords.de

www.royalsouthernbrotherhood.com

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