I've been a fan of the Neville Brothers for over
a quarter century…..it’s hard to beat the
combination of musical talents among the brothers,
from Art’s deep R&B and funk roots, Charles’
serpentine jazz lyricism, and Aaron’s angelic tenor.
Cyril Neville’s contributions to the band’s
irresistible sound…..mixing funk, reggae, and soul,
combined with his soulful vocals, his songwriting
that covers love, politics, and faith with equal
assurance, and most of all, his performances, which
always exude fire and passion….is the band’s
Over the years, I always thought he got short
shrift because in recent years, most of the acclaim
that the band received was due to the vocal gifts of
Aaron, but the real Neville fans know and appreciate
what Cyril brings to the table with the Nevilles.
His tenure with them, plus his earlier work with the
legendary Meters and his current membership in the
supergroup Royal Southern Brotherhood, marks Cyril
Neville as an icon in Southern music.
Neville has released solo albums sporadically
over the past couple of decades, culminating with
the well-received Brand New Blues in 2009.
Each has offered up a hearty mix of Crescent
City-flavored R&B, blues funk, and reggae. However,
with his latest release, Magic Honey (Ruf
Records), Neville has struck gold with the perfect
blend of blues, funk, rock, and R&B. This is a disc
that will reach across the aisle to any fan of
has 12 songs, eight penned by Neville either solo or
as a collaborator. These include the title track, a
savory funky blues (peppered with harmonica work
from Jumpin’ Johnny Sansone) which opens the disc.
“Running Water” is another foray into funk, but
Neville also rocks hard on “Invisible,” and locks
into a reggae groove on “Slow Motion.” The blues is
not shortchanged, however. “Blues Is The Truth”
finds Neville testifying convincingly, backed by
some splendid guitar from Cranston Clements.
Neville has always included his opinions on
current world affairs in his songwriting and that’s
present as well on Magic Honey. “Invisible” seems to
take a page from Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man, and
“Money and Oil” will strike a familiar tone to those
who keep up with the news.
The four cover tunes are appropriately “Nevillized.”
Neville turns in a masterful vocal performance on
“Something’s Got A Hold On Me,” works the Paul
Butterfield/Henry Glover blues/rocker “You Can Run
But You Can’t Hide,” and updates the Rush (yes,
Rush!) blue collar classic, “Working Man.”
Neville Brother fans will love his reworking of
the Dr. John classic, “Swamp Funk,” four and a half
minutes of New Orleans R&B heaven that includes
keyboards from two of the city’s finest, Allen
Toussaint and Dr. John himself.
Neville is surrounded by an A-team of musicians.
His core group includes Clements on guitar, Carl
Dufrene on bass, Norman Caesar on keys, and “Mean”
Willie Green on drums, but there are also guest
appearances by fellow RSB member and guitarist Mike
Zito on two tracks, guitarist Walter Trout on
another track, and producer David Z bends strings on
one track. Neville’s wife (Gaynielle) and son (Omari)
also contribute vocals, making Magic Honey a
true family affair.