Royal Southern Brotherhood: the first family of blues rock

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As Royal Southern Brotherhood prepare to introduce their new line-up to UK fans, frontman Cyril Neville has nixed accusations of nepotism. For their third album, Don’t Look Back: The Muscle Shoals Sessions, the Louisiana-based band replaced guitarist Devon Allman with Tyrone Vaughan, the son of Jimmie and nephew of Stevie Ray. It’s a textbook case of one famous father and another, but Neville insists that the appointment wasn’t premeditated.

“The first time I met Tyrone I had no idea what his last name was – and I didn’t really care,” the singer tells Classic Rock. “All that mattered was that he sounded good and looked good. To his credit, he wasn’t flaunting his heritage. He revealed it to me reluctantly. Having a famous last name doesn’t necessarily mean that you can cut the mustard. If people are cynical about that then hey… get our new record and hear for yourself.”

With fellow guitarist Mike Zito following Allman out the door, Neville admits that losing musicians of such a calibre was quite a blow.

“There was trepidation and it was troubling to a degree, but it wasn’t hard to know that the band should continue,” he responds. “We had invested too much time and effort to simply quit. It wasn’t time to lighten up it was time to tighten up, and that’s what we did.”

The original band had signed a deal with Ruf Records to make three albums, which including the 2013 live DVD/CD Songs From The Road, was fulfilled.

“Devon and Mike had put three and a half years into this band and wanted to make more of their solo careers,” Neville explains. “They’re still Brotherhood brothers, they’re just doing their own thing.”

With a former solo artist named Bart Walker replacing Zito at stage-left, Neville says that Royal Southern Brotherhood haven’t been forced to alter the ingredients of what he likes to call their ‘gumbo’ – a mix of blues, hard rock, R&B, soul and good old Southern rock.

“When Bart started sending me song ideas, that’s when I knew it would work,” he enthuses. “The title of the first one, Don’t Look Back, was almost spiritual. It made me burst out with laughter, and that’s the great thing – we’re still doing exactly what we did before. If anything there’s even more magic this time around. Nothing is taken away, the band has been enhanced.”

Those familiar with Dave Grohl’s audio travelogue, Sonic Highways, will have seen Cyril Neville representing his home city of New Orleans.

“My son had already turned me onto Nirvana and I knew who the Foo Fighters were, so it was great to meet Dave,” he comments. “I love the guy’s passion. He does things the way he wants to do them and not how the record company tells him. I admire that.”

A handful of club dates have been lined up around RSB’s spot at this month’s Edinburgh Jazz & Blues Festival, but a full-blown tour of the UK is currently in the planning stages.

Royal Southern Brotherhood play: Jul 18: Edinburgh Jazz & Blues Festival Jul 20: Clitheroe The Grand Jul 21: Sutton Boom Boom Club