Monday, April 14
Review and Photos - Royal Southern Brotherhood – Newby’s - Memphis, TN - 04/05/2014
The Royal Southern Brotherhood is made up of Cyrille Neville (percussion, vocals), Devon Allman (guitar, vocals), Mike Zito (guitar, vocals), Charlie Wooton (bass), and Yonrico Scott (drums). The Band began to form when Mike and Cyrille’s manager suggesting they collaborate on a song, which led to a hit, “Pearl River.” Devon joined the creative process soon after, and Charlie and Yonrico fell into the gig sort of naturally. Here they are, three years later, touring the world and continuing to record together. The musical backgrounds for all five of these gentlemen are extremely extensive, so it was not surprising that the first thing that struck me about the band was how professionally they held themselves.
Opening up the show with a Royal Southern Brotherhood original called “Fired Up!” the band immediately flooded the stage with energy. Highlights from the opener included a dirty solo from Devon, a massive drum solo from Yonrico, and Cyrille’s fervent stage presence. Cyrille especially graces the stage with such powerful soul and emotion that can only come from his New Orleans roots. After the first couple songs were sung by Cyrille, Mike took a turn on lead vocals, and he’s got a hell of a voice! Next, Devon took over and sang a ballad he wrote called “Left My Heart In Memphis,” a beautiful country-rock tune.
Another thing that began to truly impress me, as we came towards the middle of the show, was that each member of the band seemed to be very intuitive about their place in the songs. When Devon was obviously the lead part, Mike backed off and kept his place, and vice versa. Yonrico and Charlie played the rhythm section role flawlessly, along with Cyrille when he wasn't singing, but branched out to show their talents when it was their turn to solo. Considering the band only fell into forming a couple of years ago, this kind of teamwork stems from their collective experience.
These gentlemen also know how to have a good time on stage. At one point, Cyrille and Mike went into a vocals vs. guitar battle. Talk about a show! Mike and Devon also had a nice dueling guitars session later on in the middle of a gritty blues tune. The Royal Southern Brotherhood also treated us to a few notable covers. First off was “Melissa” by the Allman Brothers Band, which is a slow tune, but the audience was way into it. A little later on, “Working Man” by Rush belted out from the stage, and the crowd went absolutely nuts! It seemed like an odd selection in the middle of this southern-blues-rock set, but the band made it work with a bluesy version of the iconic number. Finally, for the encore, another Allman Brothers track, “One Way Out,” paved the way for a huge finish from this talented and incredibly underrated team of musicians.
After the show, I got a chance to chat with Mike, Devon and Cyrille. First off, I spoke with Mike about one of his solo records called “Greyhound” which was produced by Anders Osborne. When I asked him about this experienced, Mike said, “He kinda brought out a different side and helped me explore a little bit. He’s very motivating and he encouraged me to be me.”
Next, Devon told me a bit about a couple of records he produced in Memphis over the past nine months or so. “A young cat out of St. Louis named Tyler Stokes,” he said, “has a band called Delta Sol Revival. He’s an amazing virtuoso guitarist, a great vocalist, and a great writer. Also, Jeremiah Johnson, a blues cat out of St. Louis as well. That record’s really cool, and my whole thing is about, you know, making sure that in the year 2100, kids are still wanting to pick up guitars and learn Hendrix and the Stones. So if we can kind of be a bridge to that, then our job is done.”
Cyrille, youngest of the four Neville Brothers and uncle of Ivan Neville, definitely had the most to say. When I asked him about his favorite collaborators over his career, he very humbly said that he always felt blessed to collaborate with great artists. In his own words, “Just about everyone I’ve done that with, it’s a total labor of love, a two-way thing. Getting’ to write a good song with anybody is a good day.“ Cyrille brought up another highlight of his career, getting to play on Jam Cruise. “That was definitely one of the highlights of my life,” he said. Cyrille also hinted at a new tune he’s planning to debut at Jazz Fest called “Who is Umphrey?” which is about his experience being introduced to the jam scene.
I am overjoyed that I got the chance to catch the Royal Southern Brotherhood. These guys know how to play and know how to put on a show, and they are also a great group of guys. I highly recommend taking the time to see them live. Also, they have a brand new record coming out in the near future, so keep an eye out for that as well! Looking forward to some new music and a bright future from the Royal Southern Brotherhood.
Words: “Ragin’” Randy Harris
Photos: Scott Sigman
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