12 tracks – 54:48 Running time
Despite replacing founding members Mike Zito and Devon Allman, as well as bassist Charlie Wooten, Royal Southern Brotherhood continues to consistently wade at their high water mark on the band’s fourth release since their inception in 2012.
A major strength of this project is the strong interfusion of Blues, Rock Funk and Gospel. The band continues to flourish with an undiminished pulse. The double-pronged guitar attack continues with Tyrone Vaughan replacing Devon Allman and Bart Walker replacing Mike Zito. Vaughan is the son of Jimmie and the nephew of Stevie Ray.
Bart Walker slid into the shoes of Mike Zito on the October 2014 Blues Cruise as Zito was transitioning into a new career phase. Darryl Phillips has replaced Charlie Wooten on bass. Rounding out the new incarnation is New Orleans Uptown stalwart Norman Caesar on Hammond B3. That said, the original lineup comprised components of three very formidable family bands; The Neville Brothers, The Allman Brothers and The Derek Trucks Band. The bloodlines of the brotherhood run deep. The torch has now been passed and like triumpant precision sprinters in a relay race, the results are golden.
This album is a burner. How can it not be? From the opening track, the smoldering “Where There’s Smoke There’s Fire,” the heat scintillates through twelve tracks of unbridled Funk, Soul,Gospel, Blues and Rock.
Standout tracks include track # 1, “Where There’s Smoke There’s Fire.” It is a loping excursion into Funk/Rock dynamics. Bassist Darrell Phillips and rhythm guitar, underpin Yonrico Scott’s surging backbeat against a searing lead guitar. Bowie-ish in its effect, (David, not Lester), it foretells what’s in store, specifically on this album and life in general.
Track # 3, “Blood Is Thicker Than Water,” is an anthemic ode to the sanctity of family and the value of absolute truth. Witness vocalist Cyril Neville break the band down to bass and drums at the bridge and build it back up one guitar at a time.
Track # 11 is quirky, cool and funky. Spot on background vocal harmonies and dual lead vocals, this band yields many different looks including this one reminiscent of the Meters.
Grab some headphones and enjoy Bart Walker & Tyrone Vaughan trading right and left channel licks on “Stand Up” as the band tags it out with the Holy Ghost Bounce. As a matter of fact, the intricacies of left channel, right channel instrumentation and interplay can best be enjoyed by a headset. But you already know that. Go ahead and enjoy the whole album that way. Socially conscious lyrics abound.
Despite the informative liner notes, the listener is forced to rely on his auditory detective skills to determine which guitarist is playing lead and when. Ditto for the lead vocals though most of them are by Cyril Neville.
In a testament to the tenacity of Royal Southern Brotherhood’s, The Royal Gospel, it debuted in June of 2016 at number 21 on the Roots Music Report Blues Album Chart. It climbed to number 1 on August 7th, slipped to number 2 briefly, then surged back to numero uno on August 20th for five more consecutive weeks. As of the week of December 17th, 2016 it was still holding firm at number 14.