Southern rock giants ROYAL SOUTHERN BROTHERHOOD searched long and hard for the October 2014 replacement of ace guitarist Mike Zito. Fortunately, the obvious choice was already in the band’s camp in Ruf Records label-mate, Bart Walker.
Walker is no stranger to musical royalty; armed with a mighty, soulful vocal and blistering guitar style, Bart spent years touring with Stevie Ray Vaughn’s keyboardist Reese Wynans and Nashville’s blue-eyed Gospel singer Mike Farris of the Screamin’ Cheetah Wheelies.
Still at front and center of RSB’s dynamic blues/funk/soul cocktail are the Uptown Ruler himself, Cyril Neville, and guitar powerhouse Devon Allman. Bassist Charlie Wooton and drummer Yonrico Scott, renowned veterans of the genre, make a formidable rhythm section that reinforces and pushes to the foreground the sweet soul vocal and guitar attack of Southern rock’s most ferocious front line.
Royal Southern Brotherhood is what we used to call a super-group: an alliance of well-established musicians banded together to pursue a particular musical course—and perhaps even move a step or two higher on the career ladder as a result.
Devon Allman is the son of Gregg Allman and heir to the guitar artistry of his late uncle Duane. Cyril Neville is the fourth— after Arthur, Charles and Aaron—of the legendary Neville Brothers of New Orleans, the city’s foremost musical dynasty.
Bart Walker has earned his royal status as a top blues-rock guitarist by virtue of his powerful playing. And bassist Charlie Wooton and drummer Yonrico Scott, young veterans of the music, make a formidable rhythm team to back the vocals and guitars of the musically ferocious front line.
The music these men make together draws on their richly various experience—funk, blues, hard rock, reggae—as individual artists, but it’s blended into a single tightly focused form of timeless Southern expression known as blues-rock, and they play the living hell out of it. Here Cyril Neville points out that “rock & roll is the child of rhythm & blues,” citing the New Orleans origins of the idiom in the recording sessions at Cosimo Matassa’s J&M Studios on North Rampart Street in the mid-1950s that produced the incendiary Specialty singles of Little Richard.
But blues rock is in turn the child of rock & roll, born and bred in the nasty bars and roadhouses of the South and transplanted into the imaginations of a bunch of teen-age blues lovers in Great Britain who took their version to the top of the international pop music charts.
As a form of popular music that’s now 50 years old, Blues Rock has a well-defined esthetic and an almost formulaic approach to its materials, but just when you think you’ve heard it all, a group of exceptionally adept musicians comes together to reinvigorate the idiom with their emotionally informed, guitar-driven, melodically imaginative original compositions that touch all the blues-rock bases and propel the music right into your heart.