Royal Southern Brotherhood

Royal Southern Brotherhood

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This blues-roots rock supergroup of sorts features musicians bred, if not always born, in the South. The only real royalty would be singer/songwriter/percussionist Cyril Neville, who shares lead vocals with younger but still established blues-rock journeymen guitarists Mike Zito and Devon Allman. Bassist Charlie Wooton from Zydefunk and ex-Derek Trucks drummer Yonrico Scott comprise the solid rhythm section rounding out this quintet. With all this instrumental and vocal firepower, the musical possibilities of mixing Neville's familial, funky New Orleans swamp with Zito's soulful blues and Allman's tougher rock are enticing. While there is plenty to whet your appetite, there is a surprising lack of top-quality songs for these guys to dig into. A few corkers such as the Latin-tinged "Fired Up!" and the rubbery groove of "Moonlight Over the Mississippi," both sung by Neville, and Zito's terrific ballad "Ways About You" show the band can coalesce around a great tune. The problem is there just aren't enough of them. Zito, Neville, and Allman write the bulk of the material in various combinations but tunes such as "Gotta Keep Rockin'" and "Hurts My Heart" are as simplistic as their titles. Going outside to cover the Dead's reggae-tinged "Fire on the Mountain" -- the album's only non-original -- makes sense and it's an inspired performance, especially by the always impressive Neville, whose traditionally gutsy singing is the band's secret weapon. But an aimless Santana-styled closing instrumental jam credited to all the members is filler, something first albums should not have. In concert the three songwriters can fall back on their own catalogs to pick and choose quality tunes, and the sheer instrumental talents of the players carry them through. Yet compositionally, this is a tentative debut that shows tons of promise but feels rushed and not completely baked. Some tough guitar soloing and Jim Gaines' always professional production keeps the sound hot, but with the enormous potential of the members, it's disappointing. Perhaps with some roadwork and more time together the next release will fulfill the Brotherhood's possibilities.

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