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Royal Southern Brotherhood: HeartSoulBlood

Funk-soul-blues collective’s second studio LP impresses.

Two years ago, these super-Southerners – all, in different ways, steeped in the blues – proved that a supergroup like theirs could do a lot more than lay down a few safe, self-congratulatory blues blasts.

Not that they’ve shunned their roots; Royal Southern Brotherhood are not out to twist things that don’t need twisting.

Spearheaded by two scions of legendary Southern music families (Devon Allman and Cyril Neville), RSB forge a stimulating yet familiar fusion of warm, soulful blues-rock, sparky funk and modern rockier tastes, the latter in particular propelled by Stevie Ray Vaughan-echoing Strat-wielder Mike Zito.

So, does this fusion still have legs? It does. And while the live RSB experience remains their prime calling card (at times, on the core ‘tune’ front, this falls slightly flat of the excitement of their gigs), they’ve succeeded in channelling much of that raw fluidity here. Accordingly, HeartSoulBlood continues to draw from their collective arsenal of Southern blues-rock, soul, reggae, gospel, Grammy-winning, rock star-hangin’ ammo. With a relaxed, melodic sheen.

As if to dive straight in with their musical mission statement, World Blues shimmies in amid slide guitar 12-bar riffery, reggae-tinged vocal harmonies and Southern rock thrust. Not unlike Little Feat, with especially groovy guitar and extended soul sensibilities.

Rhythm, blues and blue-suede shoes shake, rattle and dad-dance their way into Rock And Roll for a continued upbeat effect, while the slower Here It Is lends stylish syncopation – slick, interesting rhythms included.

Lyrically, as well as sonically, primal rootsy fodder feeds in (‘Bring out the whip, bring out the snake’ Cyril purrs menacingly on Ritual, alongside deep, pulsating grooves). On the flipside, it has some decidedly sweet soul-pop elements, such as the lovelorn melancholia of Shoulda Known and cheese-tastic slowie She’s My Lady. The old smoothies…

Closer Love And Peace gives what you’d expect from a song called that, albeit in a sassier framework.

In all, it’s a strong, thoughtfully composed, colourful creation.

Via Ruf Records

Polly is Features Editor at Classic Rock magazine, where she commissions regular pieces and longer reads (including new band coverage) and writes a few things. She also writes for Louder, Prog and Metal Hammer, and talks about songs on the 20 Minute Club podcast. In her spare time she writes fiction and cooks.