Cyril Neville, founding member and percussionist of the blues rock supergroup Royal Southern Brotherhood, said it was “magic” recording the band’s latest album Don’t Look Back at the legendary FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, Ala. “When we found we were going to be [recording] there it was a special thing because you know a lot of the music all of us grew up listening to was recorded there,” Neville said. “The soundtrack of my life, half of the songs were recorded at that studio.”
A number of hit songs have been recorded at FAME Studios, founded in the late 1950s by Rick Hall, Billy Sherrill and Tom Stafford, like “I Never Loved a Man” by Aretha Franklin, “Tell Mama” by Etta James and “Mustang Sally” by Wilson Pickett.
“Wilson Pickett recorded there and Etta James recorded there and all my heros and sheros. It was really special,” Neville said. “And that kind of came across in the record because we did it like they did it back in the day. We did everything live in the studio and all of that came across on the record.”
The group initially went into the recording process at FAME expecting to record ten songs and ended up recording 14, Neville said, because the process was so pleasurable. “Everyone in the band had songs that came out of there that touched their lives in a meaningful way,” he said. “So it was a real special thing for all of us to get a chance to record there.”
Neville, who has a storied, legendary career of his own with stints in The Meters, Galactic and The Neville Brothers, said that he’d never gotten a chance to record at the FAME Studios, so he was excited to finally get to work there. He and the rest of the Royal Southern Brotherhood will be playing songs from their first two albums, Royal Southern Brotherhood and Heartsoulblood, at The State Theatre on Wednesday, Sept. 9.
Don’t Look Back is the first album that Royal Southern Brotherhood has recorded and released since vocalist and guitarist Mike Zito, a founding member of the band, left in August 2014. Bart Walker, who was brought in to replace Zito, came in with what became the title track of the new album, which was released in May with Ruf Records.
“The song ‘Don’t Look Back’ was the first song that me and Bart worked on together when we knew that he was coming into the band and we needed new songs,” Neville said. “And then it wound up being the title track to the record because at that point, we knew we were going to keep on going with this, we just didn’t know how.
“So when I got those lyrics from Bart, first I saw the name of it and kinda laughed because I thought it was [a funny coincidence], but then when I read the lyrics and saw what he was talking about ‘There’s a better way, we just ain’t found it yet,’ I busted out laughing and said this is an omen.”
• For more information about Royal Southern Brotherhood, visit royalsouthernbrotherhood.com.