CD review: Cyril Neville – Magic Honey
It’d be unfair to label Cyril Neville a bluesman. Not that he can’t do it, its just that he brings so much more to the table. First with the Neville Brothers, then the Meters, and more recently Royal Southern Brotherhood, Neville’s syncopated, funk drenched rhythms incorporate soul, jazz, and r&b.
His latest solo project, Magic Honey, on Ruf Records, incorporates all that with a bevy of guest stars to help funk it up even more. The title cut is a swampy, wiggly fonk ode that’d be as comfortable fit in the Meters as it would be in the Neville Brothers catalog.
Punched up by the double fonkin star power of Allen Toussaint on piano and Dr. John on organ, the doctor’s composition “Swamp Funk” lives up to its name, strutting up from the bayou like a tribe of Mardi Gras Indians on St. Joseph’s day.
“Something’s Got A Hold On Me” isn’t the Etta James classic. It’s more like Screamin Jay Hawkins backed by producer David Z’s wild hoodoo Hendrix guitar. David Z., aka David Rivkin, has served as arranger and engineer and producer for a laundry list of diverse artists including Prince, Govt. Mule, Etta James, Buddy Guy, John Mayall, Tab Benoit and Johnny Lang. He only contributes the one guitar solo here, but there’s no shortage of talented string pullers on this outing.
Walter Trout steps up for some raw, screamin’ Strat-0-spheric blues on “Running Water,” a song he co-wrote with Neville.
RSB brother Mike Zito wrings out some industrial strength guitar licks, clanging away on the blue collar ode “Working Man,” then gets down and dirty with some nasty slide on “Money and Oil.”
But when it come down to the nasty blues, on “Blues Is The Truth,” Neville proves he can get down and wallow in it as good as anybody.
Despite the imported guest star guitar power here, Cranston Clements is a main ingredient. His distinctive guitar signature was first heard on lead for blue eyed soul pioneer Wayne Cochran and the C. C. Riders in the ’70s, and has helped sculpture the sound for Irma Thomas, Dr John, Boz Scaggs and Johnny Adams as well as the New Orleans based fusion band Twangorama with Phil DeGruy and Jimmy Robinson. Here he adds hard core Chicago style riffs (“Blues is the Truth”) and frosty Albert Collins Texas-flavored licks on “You Can Run But You Can’t Hide” as well as some Albert King stinging barbs on “Still Going Down Today.”
Neville roars powerfully above it all, the voice of a New Orleans legend still intact, with plenty more left to add to the musical conversation, no matter what direction he chooses to take it.