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Cyril Neville - Brand New Blues

M.C. Records

10 songs; Time 45:15; Library Quality

Styles: Postmodern Blues, R&B and Soul

“Ok, Cyr-relle, yes, you are famous - along with your brothers Neville. Now, here you come over to the Blues. You better be bringing the deep goods, because I am not going to line up to kiss your sandals simply because of your name and other outstanding vocal accomplishments!” -- That was my attitude as soon as the CD arrived with it title, “Brand New Blues.”

While the rendering is far from 12 bar, old school, classic Blues, Mr. Neville has delivered an impassioned and intelligent set that will please all but the fussiest of purists. His fourth solo effort, first since 2000, the album’s price would still be affordable even if there was only one song, the 8:43 minute rework of Bob Marley’s “Slave Driver.”

Bob Marley’s old Jamaican Blues song about the evil and guilt of slavery is kept intact in the first half of the lyrics, but Neville’s re-working of the second half produces a powerful indictment of the forces behind the displacement of New Orleans’ poorest citizens following Hurricane Katrina and the refusal to facilitate bringing these people back home from their refugee status. Cyril’s superb vocals are joined in harmony by producer Brian J. and Chauncey Yearwood above the solemn organ of Art Neville. Brian J.’s guitar is perfect in its early ominous tones which yield to scolding punctuation in the solo.

Producer/musician Brian J. of The Pimps of Joytime is at the helm of most production chores and co-wrote the original numbers. In addition, this amazing Brian J. plays all guitar, bass, drums, keyboards, and percussion – except for the few parts played by guests Tab Benoit (guitar), Art Neville (organ), Waylon Thibodeaux (washboard), Ivan Neville (organ), Ian Neville (guitar), Jumpin’ Johnny Sansone (harmonica), Hagar Ben Ari and Andy Cotton (bass), and Chauncey Yearwood (additional vocals and congas). Oddly, a drum machine is disappointingly programmed on a few cuts, including an otherwise stellar title track with Tab Benoit’s creative guitar.

Neville takes two more opportunities to lay bare the greed, incompetence and subsequent hypocrisy of government in “Cheatin’ and Lyin’” where he sings, “...makes me want to rise up for justice....” Tab Benoit adds a mean guitar solo to the accusatory “Mean Boss Blues.”

It’s not all political vitriol, however, as the album begins upbeat with Jimmy Reed’s “I Found Joy.” Sansone’s acute harp adds to the salacious fun found in the metaphorical kitchen in “Cream Them Beans,” a Gospel plea for strength is found in “Don’t Move My Mountain,” and there’s an absolutely wonderful cover of Bobby “Blue” Bland’s “I’ll Take Care of You,” written by Brook Benton.

One of the four Neville Brothers, Cyril Neville is the youngest, born on January 10, 1948, in New Orleans, LA. In 1967 (at the age of 19), Cyril began singing professionally, as he united with brothers Art and Aaron in the outfit Art Neville and the Neville Sounds, playing the New Orleans club circuit on a regular basis. 1970 saw the release of Cyril's debut solo single, "Gossip" b/w "Tell Me What's On Your Mind," which included backing music by brother Art's new outfit, the Meters.

The Meters eventually expanded their lineup by asking Cyril to join in on vocals and congas — contributing to such albums as 1972's “Cabbage Alley” and 1975's “Fire on the Bayou.” In 1974, the Rolling Stones offered The Meters a support slot on the bands sold out tour if they would hire Cyril Neville to sing and front the band.

His work as a human rights advocate does not stray far from his art. The joys as well as the complications and frustrations of growing up in the oppressed South can be heard through-out his solo and collaboration catalog.

In addition to his work with the Neville Brothers, Cyril has formed other bands over the years, including the Endangered Species Band in 1983 and the Uptown Allstars Band. Cyril also founded the New Orleans Musicians Organized (NOMO), which helps musicians who need business advice with their careers.

Cyril Neville has issued several solo albums on his own over the years, plus he has guested on various other artist's recordings, including albums by Edie Brickell, Jimmy Buffett, Dr. John, Bob Dylan, Daniel Lanois, Willie Nelson, Tab Benoit, and Big Chief Monk Boudreaux.
In the liner notes, Cyril says, “Thanks to my friend Tab Benoit. I should have listened when you told me to ‘go Blue’ five years ago, bro.” My Blues-fan-fears were clearly unjustified as Tab Benoit was spot on correct. You can just stay Blue, Mr. Neville.

Reviewer James “Skyy Dobro” Walker is a noted Blues writer, DJ and Blues Blast contributor. His weekly radio show “Friends of the Blues” can be heard each Thursday from 4:30 – 6:00pm on WKCC 91.1 FM in Kankakee, IL
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