Brother Tyrone is a soul singer. Not neo-soul, not a retro muddled Stax/Motown Frankenstein or anything like that. Soul. Always has been. Born in New Orleans in 1957, Tyrone Anthony Pollard explains, “I started singing when I was about 8 years old. I was a big James Brown fan, always was, and I went to see him play one time and I decided I wanted to be that.”
He sang with bands in high school during the ’70s. “One of the first bands was Jam Family with Troy Martin,” he says. “The Martin Family, man, they were awesome. There were three brothers, Troy who played guitar, Michael who played drums and Kevin played bass. They used to stay in the Magnolia Project and we’d set up on the porch.”
His 2009 Mindbender album sounds like a long lost relic pulled from the stacks of a soul club of that era, right there next to the Johnnie Taylor, O.V. Wright and Otis Rush records that inspire him today. “My dad was a big blues fan,” he says. “I would ride with him and we’d listen to all of it. If you hear an Aretha Franklin record, I can remember when that was new on the radio and you’d hear it a hundred times a day.”
Tyrone and his family landed in the Scotlandville neighborhood of north Baton Rouge after Katrina, an event that permeates the strongest songs on Mindbender. On the spoken blues “When It’s Gone, It’s Gone,” he details all his records floating away as the floodwaters fill his house. “All except for James Brown. I keep those on the top shelf. Water ain’t gonna get that high.” The storm’s also the backdrop of “If You Ain’t Cheatin’,” where the protagonist resists temptation in a small town bar while his family is off in Texas.
His music is independent of time, place, and fashion, hooked to the past but not mired in it.
“When I’m looking for something, I’m looking for soul. I’m just a soul person. It’s got to be soulful for me to do it.”