Royal Southern Brotherhood: Don’t Look Back Review

Three years after the release of their self-titled first album, Royal Southern Brotherhood have returned with Don’t Look Back, their third project to date. It’s only been a year since their last album HeartSoulBlood was released, but there’s been a significant shift within RSB. Founding members Cyril Neville, Yonrico Scott and Charlie Wooton are still in the gang, but now Bart Walker and Tyrone Vaughan (son of Jimmie Vaughan) are filling in the guitar void left by former member Mike Zito. Despite the lineup change, RSB’s sound hasn’t changed much. While Devon Allman once compared the band’s beginning to a group of quarterbacks learning to play football together, they found their stride on HeartSoulBlood and now keep a steady grasp on musical cohesion on Don’t Look Back.

Learning that the album was recorded at FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals makes a few things click. Don’t Look Back was created in a style similar to RSB’s two previous records (it is blues rock, after all), but there are a few differences that stand out on first listen. The tempo shifts between songs on HeartSoulBlood were spaced out so that the album wasn’t one-half rocking and one-half rockabye. Don’t Look Back does the same, but the shifts are even more fluid this time around. It’s as if the band members left the pressures of recording behind them and allowed their time in the studio and along the Tennessee River (which they bunked near to gather their ideas before recording) to guide their creativity. “Bayou Baby” is a song with clear roots in the South. “Hard Blues,” “Poor Boy” and “Come Hell or High Water” each ring little reminders of the blues – where it originated, how it’s developed, why it’s relevant. Deep in the South where the blues came to be, between the walls of a studio that’s welcomed renowned blues artists since the late ‘60s, RSB remind listeners that concern for holding down a job to feed the family and mending a broken heart are hardships most people face at some point. As the blues changes, it also stays the same.

As excited as RSB might have been to record inside FAME, the band can’t forget its leading ladies. “Better Half” and “It’s Time for Love” both have lyrics of love and friendship that bring out that “aww” moment, and “Anchor Me” shows just how important the band members’ significant others are to them. RSB also acknowledges the weighty importance of individual pursuits in “Reach My Goal,” with guitars driving the melody forward beneath lyrics full of determination and persistence.

Released on Ruf Records nearly two months ago, Don’t Look Back stands as proof that Royal Southern Brotherhood found their sound and identity as a group. Despite the loss of Zito on this record, the band is strong and sure, creating songs that bring some of the blues’ oldest and most common themes to light.

The Review: 7.5/10

Can’t Miss Tracks

– Reach My Goal
– Don’t Look Back
– Hard Blues
– Bayou Baby

The Big Hit

– Don’t Look Back

Review by Meghan Roos

Buy the album: Amazon

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