Cyril Sings the Blues: Royal Southern Brotherhood in Snowmass Village
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Read more about the Snowmass Craft Beer Rendezvous in this week’s Snowmass Sun and online at www.snowmasssun.com.
The New Orleans music legend Cyril Neville’s first gigs were as a teenager in the 1960s, playing French Quarter clubs with his brother’s R&B outfit, Art Neville and the Neville Sounds. That group later recorded with Allen Toussaint and became The Meters — the founding fathers of New Orleans funk — and then evolved into the Neville Brothers and became music royalty.
After working with those groundbreaking bands, playing with everybody from Bob Dylan to Bono to Joan Baez, and doing solo material, Neville has most recently found a home in the blues-rooted but adventurous Royal Southern Brotherhood.
“The beautiful part about this is that I can do all that stuff right here,” Neville said last month as the band was coming off of rapturously received performances at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. “That’s what’s made it the most fun I’ve had in a long time.”
Neville formed Royal Southern Brotherhood with Devon Allman (Gregg’s son) in 2012. The band will play a free show this evening on Fanny Hill in Snowmass Village. Neville and the Brotherhood will be previewing some new songs from their forthcoming album, “The Royal Gospel,” along with songs from the band’s four-album catalog and some strategically selected covers from the Neville funk, soul and blues canons.
“It’s always a gumbo, man,” Neville said. “A little bit of everything. We go back to the first record and we don’t leave nothing behind.”
The band has toured pretty relentlessly since its founding. Working on new material, Neville said, means recording grooves with Garage Band on laptops and sharing them along the way.
“Once we get in the studio we have enough ideas so that we can come up with new stuff and pick and choose,” he explained.
In late January, the band went into the studio to record the newest songs, having reserved recording time for 10 days. But, as Neville tells it with a proud laugh, “The first day we did four songs, the second day we did five and the third day we finished the record.”
Neville broke into music as a percussionist. And though he’ll play some bongos at Saturday’s show, these days he’s mostly a frontman. As a Neville, singing is his birthright. Vocal performance, he said, isn’t so much about tone and timbre and pitch — it’s about a feeling.
“When I was coming up, when I heard Ray Charles and James Brown and Mahalia Jackson, I wanted to be able to sing in a way that made people feel how I felt when I heard them,” he said. “If I couldn’t do that, I wasn’t doing it right.”
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