The following review appeared originally in Jazz & Blues Number 315 (April 2009) and downloadable from www.jazz-blues.com.
The youngest member of the Neville Brothers, Cyril Neville, like his brothers has long engaged in a variety of projects including exploring reggae and other world musics, and revisiting some Crescent City classics along with adding his voice and conscience to the Neville Brothers. M.C. Records is bringing out his latest disc, “Brand New Blues,” which has a most definite blues focus.
Producer Brian J. plays most of the music here but most tracks are supplemented by such artists as older brother Art, his nephews Ivan and Ian, guitarist Tab Benoit, harmonica whiz Johnny Sansone and washboard from Waylon Thibodeaux. There are some originals but also some intriguing covers like Jimmy Reed’s “I Found Joy,” that opens the album with its simple groove (Art Neville’s cheesy organ fits in so well) with a vocal that suggests a hint of Taj Mahal. It is followed by the title track, where he sings about having all types of blues, from the hole in shows to broken hearted blues, but when he thought he had seen it all, she walked in his life with the brand new blues, spending his money as if no tomorrow, with Ivan Neville on Hammond B3 while Tab Benoit adds guitar fills and a solo after which the lyric takes a slightly topical twist. “Shake Your Gumbo,” is a funky, dance oriented number as he encourages his woman to shake her gumbo all night long.
With Art Neville returning on organ, Cyril does a marvelous version of “I’ll Take Care of You,” modeled on Bobby Bland’s classic recording. He can really lay down a blues ballad. “Cream Them Beans,” with washboard and Johnny Sansone’s harp, is a lively ditty with a hot creole groove. “Cheatin and Lyin,” has a sparse percussion heavy backing as Cyril wonders how some people sleep at night “as something so wrong can be seen as right” with “cheating and lying from the White Horse on down,” makes Cyril want to beat those scoundrels down and it makes him sad. “Mean Boss Groove,” with Ivan on organ and Tab on guitar, has a protest lyric about a bad boss and credit card bills piling up with a haunting, accompaniment evocative of some of John Lee Hooker’s brooding slow blues. “Blue Blue Water,” is another lesser known Jimmy Reed number with Sansone returning on harp, with Brian J on acoustic guitar and Andy Cotton adding bass on this unplugged number. After a heavy dose of blues, a gospel-tinged number “Don’t Move My Mountain.”
The album closes with a highly expressive, blues-infused rendition of Bob Marley’s “Slave Driver.” Many of Cyril Neville’s recordings have had limited distribution. Hopefully, M.C. Records will be able to get his music out to wider circulation as he has a voice that is well worth hearing on its own, just like with his brothers.
For purposes of FTC regulations, the review copy was sent to me by the record label.