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Published: 2013/01/18
by Brian Robbins

Aaron Neville
My True Story

Blue Note Records

Aaron Neville may be turning 72 this year, but you’d never know it by his voice. Sounding as smooth and silky and soulful as ever, Neville leads an all-star band of players through 12 tracks of luscious doo-wop goodness on his new album My True Story – an album guaranteed to put the rama-lama-ding-dong and the ooh-mau-mau back into your smile.

The doo-wop setting is a natural one for Neville, whether he’s laying it down to a New Orleans groove on “Work With Me Annie”, letting “Gypsy Woman” sway in the moonlight, breaking your heart with “Tears On My Pillow”, or getting playful with the slow bump of “Ting A Ling”. Co-produced by Blue Note president Don Was and Keith Richards, My True Story sounds just exactly like what it was: a legend having fun.

Was and Richards assembled a knock-out team of players to back Neville on My True Story. Anchoring the core band are legendary New Orleans drummer (and longtime member of Bob Dylan’s band) George Receli and bassist Tony Scherr, whose resume includes collaborations with Norah Jones and Bill Frisell – when he’s not busy with Steve Bernstein’s Sex Mob. Scherr’s miles-deep upright bass tone blends with Receli’s rhythms perfectly on everything from the easy glide of “Under The Boardwalk” to the finger-popping beat of “Little Bitty Pretty One”. Benmont Tench, who’s been Tom Petty’s keyboard cohort since the mid-70s, is the album’s colorist: he washes the medley of “This Magic Moment” and “True Love” with tasteful swells of organ; other times he’s the master of good-time straight-up pompadour-haired piano (“Ruby Baby”). Greg Leisz – a true master of anything with strings – weaves delicious bits of guitar throughout My True Story: jazzy glides; tremolo-soaked arpeggios; just-right street corner raunch – Leisz doles it all out as needed. Guests include hornman Lenny Pickett (check out his sweet flute on “Be My Baby”) and vocalist Eugene Pitt, who co-wrote the title track back in 1961 for his group The Jive Five.

And then there’s Mr. Richards: ol’ Keef makes his first unmistakable appearance on the opener “Money Honey”. While you can hear Richards’ gruff-toned double-stops here and there, accenting Neville’s vocal on the choruses, it’s when he steps forward at the 1:38 mark to fire off some classic Chuck-Berry-and-cigarette-smoke-infused licks that you know who’s laying it down. There’s no flashy-assed million-notes-a-minute playing, of course – simply just-right tone and groove and cool. (Supposedly Richards’ solo you hear on “Ruby Baby” was recorded while he was warming up, unaware the tape was rolling. Which just goes to prove that true cool is always on, boys and girls.)

The fact is, none of these superplayers ever lay down one note more than what is absolutely perfect in the moment. Don Was knew his stuff when he put this band together: it’s obvious that all hands are having the time of their lives making Neville’s dream project a reality.

My True Story is a sure-fire time machine that’s guaranteed to please. Put it on, turn it up, take your baby by the hand, and let Aaron and the gang transport you to a time and place where things were sweet and simple and as real as the smiles you can hear on these grooves.

*****

Brian Robbins hammers out his copy by the dashboard light over at www.brian-robbins.com

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