Review: Royal Southern Brotherhood – Don’t Look Back (The Muscle Shoals Sessions)

Posted on: Saturday, Jul 25, 2015

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Royal Southern Brotherhood – Don’t Look Back

(The Muscle Shoals Sessions)

(Ruf Records: RUF 1215)

The Royal Southern Brotherhood return with “Don’t Look Back” – a third studio album, recorded at the iconic Fame Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, and produced by Tom Hambridge – and as ever with a heady brew of blues, funk, soul, rock and more . . . .

After serving since the band’s inception in 2012, this new release sees a complete overhaul of the band’s guitar department, following the departures of founder members Devon Allman and Mike Zito. The full line-up now comprises of Cyril Neville (vocals, percussion), Charlie Wooton (bass), Yonrico Scott (drums, percussion), with the new guitar pairing of Bart Walker, from Nashville; and Tyrone Vaughan . . . the son of Texas legend, Jimmie Vaughan . . . a seamless transition for sure!

The generous 14-song collection comprises of all original new material, most co-wrote by various combinations within the band – with another of the famed Neville Brothers – Ivan, helping out on one song and also contributing Hammond B-3, piano and clavinet. Further guests included the horns of Jimmy Neville (saxophone), Max Abrams (saxophone) and Paul Armstrong (trumpet).

The highlights are plentiful and the music blasts off with the crunching guitars of Walker and Vaughan on the strutting rocker, “I Wanna Be Free”; which is followed by the driving “Reach My Goal”, which reminded me of classic Doobie Brothers, and has a nice contribution from Ivan Neville on keyboards. The title cut, “Don’t Look Back”, takes the pace down, with some bass ‘gymnastics’ from Charlie Wooton to kick it off, before loping into a reggae groove – with fine performances all-round.

The N’Awlins flavoured funk of “The Big Greasy” is a particular joy and hits a truly memorable groove from the band; producer Tom Hambridge and writing partner Gary Nicholson contribute the tough rocking “Hard Blues”; before Cyril and Ivan Neville’s “Better Half” – a gorgeous ballad showing the mellower side of Royal Southern Brotherhood.

That softer side is highlighted again on “It’s Time For Love”, a soulful affair with the driving rhythm section and some tasteful guitar contributions and of course, Cyril Neville’s outstanding vocals. Tyrone Vaughan’s co-write with Will Knaak is the funky “Poor Boy”, with lashings of groove brought to the table again. This highly recommended album ends in style with the mainly-acoustic ballad, “Anchor Me” – penned by Cyril Neville and adopted son of New Orleans, the great Anders Osborne.

So a few of the names have changed, but Royal Southern Brotherhood have delivered another great album of roots music and more . . . with the transition from the Allman/Zito guitar pairing to that of Walker/Vaughan, sounding pretty seamless.

GRAHAME RHODES

www.royalsouthernbrotherhood.com

www.rufrecords.de

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