Royal Southern Brotherhood – Heartsoulblood


Review by Will Harris

Ruf Records

Release date: 16 June 2014

“When we went into the studio on the first record, we were a bunch of musicians making a record in the studio,” said Royal Southern Brotherhood guitarist Devon Allman recently. “On Heartsoulblood, we are a band.” And so it is with the American blues-rock quintet’s second album, on which they appear to have truly found their groove and locked in; the music of their commendable (if not astounding) self-titled debut has here been tightened and galvanised, featuring effortlessly blended rhythms and weaving, complementary guitar lines. Indeed, here is the sound of a talented group of musicians that have capitalised on two years of hard touring to meld into one dynamic force.

This time around sees the group reunite with producer Jim Gaines and engineer David Z, and though they revisit much of the same kind of material, the result is a much more cohesive and enjoyable record. For those that crave the rock of Devon (son of Gregg) Allman’s heritage, there’s plenty such fare here: the unmistakable southern flavour of opener ‘World Blues’, with its swampy slide riffs and Georgia-ready group chorus, has all the hallmarks of an Allman Brothers track, while ‘Rock and Roll’ satisfies a different part of the southern rock palate as a Skynyrd-driven ode to the origins of the genre. Though the production might fail to give the rockier tracks some much-needed punch in places, the songs themselves press all the right buttons.

Speaking of which, those familiar with the solo work of lead vocalist Cyril Neville will already know his particular fondness for songs about luuurve-makin’ (just listen to, ahem, ‘Magic Honey’), a topic that surfaces in diverse arrangements throughout: the gettin’-down-to-it blues-rock of ‘Ritual’; ‘Let’s Ride’’s heavy funk; the popped-and-slapped invitation of ‘Here It Is’. But Neville isn’t all about the nookie, either, with both broken-hearted ballad ‘Shoulda Known’ and smooth declaration of love ‘She’s My Lady’ showing not only a deeper, emotional sensitivity but also his outstanding natural ability as a soul singer. Acknowledgements of wider, more socially-important subjects, meanwhile, come through on numbers like ‘World Blues’, ‘Love and Peace’ and ‘Callous’, Neville crying out in the latter’s closing lines: “Still waitin’ on justice, still waitin’ on freedom”.

What makes the bulk of Heartsoulblood so enjoyable, however, is how RSB have pulled their influences and experiences together to create one powerfully distinguishable sound, made seamless via Cyril Neville’s creative use of additional percussion. The jams from 2013’s lauded live set Songs From The Road leave doubtless direct impact on sections such as the multi-faceted improvised outro to ‘Groove On’, but it’s the cumulative hours on the road, the many hours spent by RSB on becoming a fluid, expressive unit, that has shaped Heartsoulblood into the invigorating and distinctive record that it is.

Royal Southern Brotherhood – Heartsoulblood7.5 out of 10

Track listing:

  1. World Blues
  2. Rock and Roll
  3. Groove On
  4. Here It Is
  5. Callous
  6. Ritual
  7. Shoulda Known
  8. Let’s Ride
  9. Trapped
  10. She’s My Lady
  11. Takes A Village
  12. Love and Peace



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