Gaynielle Neville, Woman Power (Independent)

Gaynielle Neville, Woman Power, album cover, OffBeat Magazine, July 2014

Gaynielle Neville is the longtime singing/songwriting partner of her husband Cyril Neville, here making her solo debut. Since she’s been in many of Cyril’s bands, the music mix here is what you’d expect: A little reggae, a little smooth soul and a lot of funk. As a singer, she’s earned the spotlight: She’s got a persuasive voice with enough natural sweetness to put some strong sentiments across.

When the title song demands equal pay within the first verse, you can tell she’s not about to mince words. And “Love Shouldn’t Hurt” is a pleasing soul ballad on the surface, but its lyric not only speaks out against domestic violence, but promises to strike back if necessary. The backup crew includes some notable names outside the usual Neville orbit, like lead guitarist Cranston Clements and occasional co-writer Beth Patterson. Keeping with the album’s feminist theme, Cyril plays a strictly supportive role throughout, but his trademark percussion helps keep it rolling.

While the album speaks well for Gaynielle as a songwriter, the two best tracks are updated versions of local standards. “It Ain’t My Fault” adds words to the classic Smokey Johnson instrumental; her lyrics name check Johnson and cleverly riff off the song’s title (“Most times when people do wrong, this is not their favorite song”). More surprising is “New Orleans Ladies”—yes, the slightly lecherous old Le Roux hit, about the last thing you’d expect to hear on a feminist funk album.

But Gaynielle claims it by putting the words in the first person: Instead of a gawker’s ode to the women on Bourbon, it’s now a song of pride for women all over the city. She also gives it more groove than the original, though she doesn’t fix the lyric’s geographical howler about sashaying “all the way from Bourbon Street to Esplanade.” Those streets of course intersect, so it’s not far to sashay.