Album Reviews

Royal Southern Brotherhood

The Royal Gospel

Artist:     Royal Southern Brotherhood

Album:     The Royal Gospel

Label:     Ruf Records

Release Date:     06/24/2016


The old adage “three strikes and you’re out”  does not apply here but “try, try again” certainly does, as it seems that Royal Southern Brotherhood has found their best groove yet with this, their fourth release and a slightly new lineup. The original vision of Neville Brothers meets Allman Brothers is most fully realized here, maybe because Cyril Neville wrote or co-penned all of the original tunes, maybe because Cyril leads on all vocals, maybe because guest Norman Ceasar on B3 rounds out the sound. Perhaps the biggest reason of all– they’ve found the chemistry that somehow seemed lacking on some previous outings. Here’s how guitarist Bart Walker comments on this evolution: “It’s not often that you find a connection like Cyril and me. It got to the point where we were almost in each other’s heads – and we had already worked out what the other one was gonna say.” Neville chimes in, “It’s a very spiritual thing. I kinda laughed, because Bart was getting ahead of what was even thinking. Last time, we actually got together in the room to do the demos. This time, it was all done by iPhone and stuff like that. But when you taste this musical gumbo, you’re gonna be very satisfied.” New bassist Darrell Phillips adds, “On this record we came together as a band. It was a magical thing to witness.”

Both Walker and twin guitarist Tyrone Vaughan collaborated with Neville on the tunes. Many of the lyrics are rather idealistic in terms of love, peace, joy with a smattering of politics, too. That’s what we’ve come to expect from Cyril anyway. But the power of the album lies in the unrelenting grooves. The first six tunes have an irresistible New Orleans – southern rock mashup groove that stays right where you want it, unlike some of their other efforts that veered into an annoying blues-rock mode. “Blood is Thicker Than Water” and “I’m Comin’ Home” are especially strong. “Face of Love”  is a nice change of pace ballad, a cover of a tune written by Michael McDonald, Tommy Sims and Jeff Silber. “Hooked on Plastic” is a funk exercise complete with wah-wah guitars which are apropos here given the topic. The closer, “Stand Up” is an urgently joyous call to rebel against the politicians of today as the band builds to a breathtaking crescendo. This will undoubtedly prove to be a favorite in the live shows.

“The whole record is geared toward making a joyful noise,” says Neville, “but while we’re partying, we still need to be thinking about what’s going on around us. It covers what we’ve seen in our travels over the last few years, and what we’ve live personally as citizens of the world.”

The gospel of Royal Southern Brotherhood rings true. Jump aboard this train.

– Jim Hynes


You can stream The Royal Gospel on the site HERE

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  1. There is a severe lack of Devon Allman in this write up. I booked up to see Devon Allman at the Jazz Cafe in London in September. The gig was put back to tomorrow (November 15th) and the tickets arrived with Royal Southern Brotherhood on them. This would not be a problem as I would enjoy a Zito/Allman gig, however, they disbanded in 2014. Now I hear neither are in the band called Royal Southern Brotherhood?