Guest Author - Sue Sutherland-Wood
Many music fans will be familiar with the work of the Neville Brothers – perhaps most notably with the super cherubic tones of gentle giant Aaron Neville; however, perhaps not as well known is another, more blues-oriented Neville brother and that brings us full circle to the latest offering from Cyril Neville and the aptly titled Brand New Blues all set for release in early April.
Brand New Blues is the first recording for Cyril in eight years (and the first with New York based label M.C.Records) and much of this cd is original material, many tracks being co-written by Neville himself. Cyril has worked with many big names over the years including Dr.John, Bob Dylan and Willie Nelson to name but a few.
A bluesman for over forty years – which his hard to believe since he looks decades younger – Neville’s latest offering is both fresh and tasty. Brand New Blues, a title which seeks to link our modern-day troubles with blues gone by – is a gritty, swanky, down and dirty blues album in its own right – let’s not be confused; however, there is also a definite political intelligence at work which is impossible to miss. A New Orleans native himself, Cyril is upfront with his anger and position about the devastation of the city and there is plenty of space devoted to this in the liner notes.
I’ll Take Care of You is a completely different, more menacing version of the Bobby Bland classic which was recently covered so well by Mick Hucknall. Cyril’s version is harder, bassier and less polished – not as slick as Hucknall’s version or even the original but after re-listening to all of them (hey, this is what I do) I still really liked it. Cyril is – as you might expect one of the Neville brothers to be – a sincere and skilled vocalist.
Cream Them Beans is a raunchy track and for those in doubt this is about as far away from cooking instructions as you are likely to get. Cyril seems particularly keen to offer advice about food prep and has an entire array of tasks he is willing to assist with. He points out a few times that for those who might “need some fixin’ in the kitchen” then he’s “the one you’re lookin’ for.” It’s nice when people want to help out I always think …
Cheatin’ and Lyin’ is a return to a more traditional blues sound but serves up a profound message at the same time that takes aim at political conscience – and lack of same. There’s a insistent gospel vibe happening in the background too that just won’t stop – excellent!
The closing track, a Bob Marley tune Slave Driver sees Neville adding some new, Katrina-appropriate lyrics of his own. Slave Driver is the ideal vehicle for this message with its slow, understated African sensibilities and it really works because this is one of the most impassioned and fervent songs on the cd. Neville’s vocals are tortured and convincing – a traditional Jamaican beat has the blues layered right on top, hearkening back to a Mali guitar feeling – and the result is both spare and effective. This whole record is a solid listening experience – turn it up.
Buy Brand New Blues now at Amazon.com!