A touch of New Orleans with a street corner serenade beat leads the Ear Bliss parade this week as we look at the new solo release from the legendary vocalist Aaron Neville. From there we head to Austin, Texas, for the first full-length debut from the wife-husband team of Kelly Willis and Bruce Robison. Let’s get to it.
“My True Story”
Blue Note Records
The producers are Don Was and Keith Richards. The players on the album, in addition to Richards, include Benmont Tench (Tom Petty’s Heartbreakers), studios aces Greg Leisz and Tony Scherr, and New Orleans-based drummer George Receli (Bob Dylan). The singer and obvious focal point is the renowned vocalist Aaron Neville. If you’re thinking doo-wop record (and I highly doubt anybody reading this is), you’ve got it pegged. “My True Story” is the Blue Note Records solo debut for the seventy-something Neville. The album hearkens back to his roots as a vocalist-cum-street corner styled singer in his native New Orleans. The selections are classic circa-1950s and ’60s R&B songs that Neville devoured as an up and coming singer in the Crescent City. “This Magic Moment,” “Under the Boardwalk,” “Tears On My Pillow,” “Be My Baby,” “Little Bitty Pretty One,” “Money Honey,” you probably get the idea. It’s all good, particularly in the voice of Neville’s distinctive falsetto-tinged tenor filled with the emotion and affection he had for these songs. Relatively speaking, what with the firepower of the supporting cast the production work of Was and Richards is tastefully restrained allowing the interpretive light to shine on the songs and particularly, the angelic voice of Neville.
Kelly Willis & Bruce Robison
Separately, the wife-husband team of Kelly Willis and Bruce Robison have each had some pretty decent success. The honeyed-voice Willis came out of the gates strong in the early 1990s helping lead the new traditionalist charge on the female side of things for MCA-Nashville Records. When the bubble burst in the latter part of the decade, Willis found a new suitor in Rykodisc Records releasing a string of well-received solo albums with the focus on that terrific voice and strong song selections. In addition to releasing a string of his own solo albums, Robison, on the other hand, was making his mark more as a songwriter with everyone from the Dixie Chicks (“Travelin’ Soldier”) to George Strait (“Wrapped”) to Faith Hill and Tim McGraw (“Angry All the Time”) riding his songs to the top of the country charts. The two married in 1996 and continued their solo ways until now with the release of their first album as a duet called “Cheater’s Game.” Until this album, Willis had been off the recording grid since 2007 devoting her time to their four children. Robison’s last longplayer was 2008’s The New World. The twosome began doing an annual Christmas show in their Austin hometown in 2008. It became quite popular such that they then started playing out together more frequently. It now culminates with “Cheater’s Game.” The album brings together the best of both of them, Willis’s pretty and emotional soprano and Robison’s easy going Texas style. In addition to a number of Robison songs, the two also tap some of their favorite songwriters including Dave Alvin (“Border Radio” on which Alvin contributes vocals and guitar), Don Williams (“We’re All the Way”), Robert Earl Keen (“No Kinda Dancer”), Hayes Carrl (“Long Way Home”) and the Dickie Lee heartbreaking classic “9,999,999.” The chemistry between these two is immediate with the Alvin kickoff track.mGreat singing and songs and superb backing, “Cheater’s Game” is a keeper. Visit www.bruceandkellyshow.com .
Kelly Willis and Bruce Robison celebrate the release of “Cheater’s Game” with a Valentine’s Day record release show at Johnny D’s in Somerville, Mass., on Thursday, Feb. 14. Visit www.johnnyds.com .
I remember pogo-ing to Boston punkers The Neighborhoods at URI back in the Spring of 1980. No doubt “The Prettiest Girl” will be part of the playlist when they headline The Met Café (1005 Main St., Pawtucket) on Friday night.
The Ocean Mist (895 Matunuck Beach Road) on Saturday “house” band The Ocean Mistics playing their weekly free show from 3:30 to 6:30 and then the Bob Marley tribute band Hope Road commanding the stage.
(Dan Ferguson is a free-lance music writer and host of The Boudin Barndance, broadcast Thursday nights from 6 – 9 p.m. on WRIU-FM 90.3.)