No getting around it: I’m writing this review in the wake of the latest (at press time) horrific mass shooting, and the Brotherhood’s topical “I’ve Seen Enough to Know”—which opens with the line “Brothers killing brothers, where’s it gonna end?” is sounding like a tonic. Cyril Neville’s vocal hits all the right notes: weariness, outrage, and a final plea to come to our senses — and the band gives it a suitably ominous funk groove, with a keyboard part that sounds like a siren in the distance. The last verse’s “If we all pull together, we can break the chain” is the most hopeful thing you’re going to hear on the subject, and Neville is a forceful enough singer to make it resonate.
On their fifth album in four years, the RSB sports a reshuffled lineup: Cofounders Mike Zito and Devon Allman are gone, but there’s still a second-generation star in Tyrone Vaughan (son of Jimmie, nephew of Stevie Ray). But the band’s mission is about the same—to work deep soul and blues flavors into a band largely based in rock. Neville gets most of the vocal space this time around; the fine soul ballad “Face of Love” and the family groove “Blood Is Thicker Than Water” are the kind of songs that used to highlight Neville Brothers albums. The Austin blues-rock influence was always there, but it comes forward more with Vaughan’s addition; “Everybody Pays Some Dues” brings good memories of rootsy Austin bands like Storyville and Arc Angels.
There’s a lot of full-throttle arena rock here as well—the opener “Where There’s Smoke There’s Fire” is an unqualified riff-slinger — but it’s the final track, “Stand Up,” that lives up to the CD title: It’s a gospel workout with Neville in his best preacher mode, making one more plea to come together with the help of choral vocals and some hot guitar tradeoffs. This is a rock album worth blasting, and it might get you a little healing as well.