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August 2016

Royal Southern Brotherhood
The Royal Gospel
Ruf Records

Royal Southern Brotherhood

You can’t keep a good band down. Royal Southern Brotherhood has seen a lot of personnel changes during their brief history, but they have not only survived, they’ve thrived, as can plainly be heard on their latest release, The Royal Gospel (Ruf Records). The current edition of RSB includes charter members Cyril Neville (percussion/vocals) and Yonrico Scott (drums), with recent additions Bart Walker and Tyrone Vaughan (guitars/vocals), plus newest member Darryl Phillips (bass/vocals).

One of the things I enjoy the most about the RSB sound is their mix of Southern rock (a la the Allman Brothers) with the swampy New Orleans funk and R&B of the Neville Brothers. The hard-working rhythm section, rocket-fueled twin guitar attack, plus the sublime Hammond B3 flourishes from guest Norman Caesar really lift what is already a quality set of songs (eight originals, four covers) several notches.

RSB rattles the rafters with the power rocking opener, “Where There’s Smoke There’s Fire,” “I’m Comin’ Home,” with it’s sizzling slide guitar solo midway through, and “Land of Broken Hearts.” “Blood Is Thicker Than Water” provides a perfect combination of Allmanesque guitar work with that deep Neville funk backdrop. The optimistic lyrics of “I’ve Seen Enough To Know” will certainly resonate with listeners keeping up with current events, and Neville sings it like he wrote it (it was penned by Jeff Silbar and Billy Valentine…Silbar also co-wrote the lovely ballad, “Face of Love”). Neville takes the lion’s share of vocals, and he continues to be one of the most expressive, and soulful, vocalist currently practicing on the blues scene.

The slower tempo “I Wonder Why” keeps a nice funky backbeat complemented by Walker’s acoustic guitar, and “Everybody Pays Some Dues” is a standout Cyril Neville original. Walker takes the mic for the bluesy “Spirit Man,” which features some tasty slide guitar from Vaughan. “Hooked On The Plastic,” a jibe at materialism, and “Can’t Waste Time” are a pair of fine funk workouts, and the inspirational closer, “Stand Up,” is an upbeat Neville/Walker collaboration that’s right in Neville’s wheelhouse.

With five albums in four years(.), Royal Southern Brotherhood shows no signs of slowing down, or running out of musical ideas, both lyrically and musically. The Royal Gospel finds RSB continuing to make music that will cause inspiration and perspiration.

--- Graham Clarke
Read Graham's blog




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