You might expect Cyril Neville’s first post-Katrina album to comment on his trials since then, but the only lines that could be heard as a reference are from the spiritual “Don’t Move My Mountain”: “Every time I turn my back / they scandalize my name.” Instead, Cyril sings the blues, and they suit him well. The power and passion in his voice bring everything to life, even when the lyrics are little more than genre exercises. When he gets something to chew on such as the working man’s plight that he lays out in “Mean Boss Blues,” the results are riveting.
Brand New Blues is a bit of a catalog, with a shuffle here, a ballad there (he handles Brook Benton’s “I’ll Take Care of You” with style), but his voice and rhythmic sense pull everything together. He finds a new, cool groove for Jimmy Reed’s “I Found Joy,” and his title cut sounds like a lost track from There’s a Riot Goin’ On. The closest things to missteps are “Shake Your Gumbo” and “Cream Them Beans,” and it’s possible that I just don’t value what they do. Both are dance tracks, and maybe the world does need some New Orleans-based double entendre songs; certainly there is a blues tradition for them. Still, they seem a little easy, and Cyril Neville has rarely done anything the easy way, so I expect a little more.