Aaron Neville working with Keith Richards, Don Was on upcoming album of doo-wop classics

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The ever-eclectic Aaron Neville’s newest project, co-produced by Keith Richards and Don Was, will focus on classic songs from the doo-wop era.

During Neville’s five decade recording career, he has displayed a chameleon-like ability to perform, collaborate and contribute to a wide range of genres. From the funky soul and R&B cuts with the Neville Brothers to a triple platinum, Grammy winning duet with Linda Ronstadt in 1989, “Don’t Know Much” (off an album the duo received two Grammys for), to the title track of 1993’s The Grand Tour which put Neville on the country charts for the first time, to his several gospel records including his most recent project, I Know I’ve Been Changed in 2010.

Neville has now signed with EMI’s Blue Note Records, for whom Don Was serves as a president, and a full-length doo-wop album is set for release this fall: “Aaron Neville is one of the most expressive and soulful artists of all time … it’s such a thrill to hear him sing,” Was says. “His vocals have a way of reaching into your heart and stirring something really deep inside. It’s a huge honor to welcome him to Blue Note Records and to be involved, along with the legendary Keith Richards, in the production of this album.”

All of the tracks were hand-picked by Neville himself as they are songs that have remained close to his heart since he was a child. “When I was a kid, doo-wop was like medicine to me,” Neville explains. “I didn’t care what else was goin’ on in the world as long as I could sing along with Pookie Hudson and The Spaniels, The Flamingos, The Clovers, Sonny Til and The Orioles, Clyde McPhatter — I was like a kid in a candy store.”

A stellar group of session players was assembled to lay down these tracks. In addition to Keith Richards on guitar other musicians include: Greg Leisz on guitar (Beck, Sheryl Crow, Bob Dylan, Ryan Adams), Benmont Tench on organ (founding member of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers), George G. Receli on drums (Bob Dylan, James Brown), and Tony Scherr on bass (Bill Frisell, Norah Jones, Rufus Wainwright). Richards sheds some light on the atmosphere in the studio as he explains, “This was a dream session. The band fell right into the groove and Aaron sang like an angel. It was an honor!”

Aaron Neville’s upcoming concert dates:
June 23: Greensboro, NC – Carolina Theatre
June 24: Norfolk, VA – 23rd Annual Bayoo Boogaloo
June 26: Charlottesville, VA – Paramount Theatre
June 28: New Orleans, LA – House of Blues
June 30: Beverly, MA – North Shore Music Theatre
July 13: Park City, UT – Big Stars, Bright Nights
July 14: Boulder, CO – Chautauqua Auditorium
July 15: Arvada, CO – Arvada Center Amphitheater
August 4: Charleston, WV – Multi-Fest WV
August 5: Washington, DC – The Howard Theatre
August 7: Ponte Vedra, FL – Ponte Vedra Concert Hall
August 8: Orlando, FL – The Plaza Theatre Live
August 10: Mobile, AL – Saenger Theatre
August 11: Atlanta, GA – Atlanta Botanical Gardens

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Here’s a look back at our recent thoughts on Aaron Neville. Click through the titles for complete reviews …

AARON NEVILLE – I KNOW I’VE BEEN CHANGED (2010): With a voice that’s axiomatically compared with winged messengers from God, Aaron Neville’s gospel records ought to form the cornerstone of his resume, right? Instead, the New Orleans singing legend’s two previous attempts felt too forced, like being dragged into church. Not this one. Neville, paired with producer Joe Henry (Elvis Costello; Rodney Crowell; Allen Toussaint, who adds a calling-card back-pew soul at the piano), offers 13 new recordings of timeless hymns on I Know I’ve Been Changed — but without the reverent formality that staggered earlier attempts.

AARON NEVILLE – BRING IT ON HOME: THE SOUL CLASSICS (2006): As a New Orleans legend directly affected by 2005’s devastating hurricane, Aaron Neville could have easily put forth an angry album full of dispair and no one would have begrudged him one bit. But when it came time for him to make his musical statement about the tragedy, Aaron didn’t send out a strong message for the failure of government or social injustice. Instead, like many of us, he sought solace in music that to him reminds of a happier time. Only instead of merely listening to this music, he recreated it. And for Neville, the source of that solace are the soul classics he’s cherished for many years.

SOMETHING ELSE! INTERVIEW: AARON NEVILLE: It’s hard to define Aaron Neville’s music. Even for Aaron Neville. Rhythm and blues? He nods. Soul? He nods. Gospel? Now more than ever. But country? Sure. He and his brothers do it all. In fact, Neville’s signature move is pure country: a falsetto, yodel-like tremolo. Even with the success that collaborations with Linda Ronstadt brought in the 1990s, he never stopped performing and recording with the Neville Brothers. “That’s the franchise,” he told me, moments before going on stage. For much of the 1970s and ’80s, Neville was better known for his work with those famous siblings, with whom he toured constantly. That despite an explosive entry into the pop charts with the late-1960s hit “Tell It Like It Is.” But his work with early country-rock star Ronstadt seemed to embolden Neville’s solo work. Not only did he find himself on the pop charts again with hits like “Don’t Know Much” and “Everybody Plays the Fool,” he even came to embrace those country leanings. In the early 1990s, he recorded “The Grand Tour,” written by George Jones. A CD released in 1994 then did the unthinkable: It debuted in the Top 10 on the pop, R&B and country charts. “All of it’s in there,” Neville says of his music.

ONE TRACK MIND: AARON NEVILLE, “LOUISIANA 1927” (1991): In 1991, bolstered by the strength of the Neville Brothers’ Yellow Moon and also the success of his duets with Linda Ronstadt, Neville put out a solo record Warm Your Heart. It’s a good but not great album; however it kicks off marvelously with “Louisiana, 1927.” Being from New Orleans itself and having some savvy in picking tunes to cover, this choice makes a lot of sense. The string-heavy arrangements of the original are here, and a swelling chorus is added for further weight. As for Neville’s lead vocal, it needs no comment except to state that it’s his usual outstanding fare: They don’t call him “The Voice” for nothing.

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