Royal Southern Brotherhood, “Don’t Look Back” (2015): Something Else! exclusive stream

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The roots-rock supergroup Royal Southern Brotherhood is poised to drop its third studio record on us May 26, 2015 (Ruf Records) with some major lineup changes. Gone are the dual guitar/vocal threat of Devon Allman and Mike Zito and in their place are Tyrone Vaughan and Bart Walker.

I love the talent that Allman and Zito can bring to a band much less what they’re capable of doing on their own, but surprisingly, Don’t Look Back isn’t missing a thing. The Royal Southern Brotherhood not only survives the departure of two highly respected vets in their own right, they even continue to thrive. That’s due to two things: what’s been kept and what’s been added.

Vocalist, composer, percussionist and bandleader Cyril Neville continues to guide the band, and his 45 years in the business through impactful stints with New Orleans institutions like the Meters, the Neville Brothers and Galactic. His own solo career has produced some damned good music, too.

In other words, Neville hadn’t just been in the proximity of Nawlins-flavored blues, funk and rock when it was blossoming, he is Nawlins-flavored blues, funk and rock. That’s the DNA he lends to RSA that won’t go away as long as he’s at the center of it.

Adding these two guys taking over Allman’s and Zito’s spots are much more than mere fill-ins. Bart Walker has a forceful set of opera-trained pipes that can stand up to Neville’s classic old school soul delivery. Tyrone Vaughan is the son of Austin guitar legend Jimmie Vaughan, but he’s been steadily building his own legend in that town even though that town’s been overcrowded with phenomenal musicians and composers. The rhythm section remains the ever-steady Yonrico Scott (drums) and Charlie Wooten (bass).

“Don’t Look Back,” the titular track premiering in the stream above, is a mighty fine presentation of all this knack and know-how pooled together into the quintet. It was mostly written by Walker before he joined RSB and finished off by Neville. Walker says “we often speak of spiritual things happening in RSB. This was no different.” But he couldn’t quite finish the lyrics to the song so when the band prepared to record their newest album, he handed it over to Neville. That was when the leader knew that the band was going to make it through the transition just fine: “When I first saw the words ‘Don’t Look Back,” I knew there was a spiritual connection between Bart and I and that the RSB train would continue to roll!”

Over a hip-swaying, banjo picking funk construction, Walker leads the singing on a song brimming about positivity and moving forward. And these guys should know what they’re talking about: left with replacing two, high-profile guitarists, songwriters and singers, the Royal Southern Brotherhood didn’t look back; they reloaded. The train continues to roll.

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron is an SQL demon for a Fortune 100 company by day, music opinion-maker at night. His musings are strewn out across the interwebs on jazz.com, AllAboutJazz.com, a football discussion board and some inchoate customer reviews of records from the late 1990s on Amazon under a pseudonym that will never be revealed. E-mail him at svaaron@somethingelsereviews .com or follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SVictorAaron
S. Victor Aaron
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