April 10, 2013 by Jay Minkin
There will be a ton of talent heading to Cleveland from April 19th to the 27th participating in this year’s Tri-C JazzFest including Bill Frisell, Joe Lovano, Natalie Cole, and Michael Feinstein. But this writer is looking forward to the opening night when two icons from New Orleans, Aaron Neville and Dr. John, will be sharing the stage for some swamp boogie rhythm and blues funk. For Malcom John “Mac” Rebennack Jr., who is also known as the “Night Tripper” besides the good doctor, had a stellar 2012 with the release of Locked Down that not only received a GRAMMY for “Best Blues Album”, but also helped garner an award for the record’s producer Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys . As for Neville, he has a beautiful new album that was released at the beginning of the year titled My True Story. This edition of liner notes has had this one on simmer waiting for just the right moment to serve like a bowl of hot & spicy jambalaya, so let’s go behind the music once again with Aaron Neville an album he has been waiting his whole life to record.
Neville, part of the legendary brotherhood group Neville Brothers, has been a fixture of the music coming from New Orleans going back to 1967 with the hit single “Tell It Like It Is”. He had relocated to New York City after losing his home to Hurricane Katrina and recently signed with the Blue Note Records. Although known as a fixture to jazz artists, the label’s President, acclaimed Americana and Rock producer Don Was, felt adding the legendary singer was a no brainer. Neville hand-picked twelve classic doo-wop songs for his debut label release that had remained close to his heart since he was a young child. “I attended the University of Doo-Wop-ology” explains Neville. “I came up in the doo-wop era and it’s just part of me. It’s the texture that I’m singing in, it’s the ending, and the harmonies. These songs helped to mold me into who I am. They rode with me in my bones through all these years.”
Keith Richards was approached by Was to co-produce the project based on a moment when the Rolling Stone kept the Jive Five song “My True Story” playing in loop in his room during the recording of Voodoo Lounge. Richards guitar work can be heard throughout the disc along with a crack band featuring Greg Leisz (guitar), Benmont Tench (organ), George Receli (drums), and Tony Scherr (bass). Neville brought some authenticity to the sessions that produced twenty-three songs in five days recorded live by having doo-wop legends Eugene Pitt of Jive Five, Bobby Jay of The Teenagers, and Dickie Harmon of Del-Vikings fame sing backing vocals and harmonies. “Opportunities like this don’t come ‘round very often” says Richards. “I grew up with these songs, like Aaron did, and it’s such a pleasure to play with a voice like that. I never saw a bunch of hardened musicians act like a bunch of kids. To everyone’s credit, many of the songs were recorded on the first take.
Songs chosen for release on the album include “Tears On My Pillow” by Little Anthony and The Imperials, “Work With Me, Annie”, from Hank Ballard and The Midnighters, and classics “Money Honey”, “This Magic Moment”, and “Under The Boardwark” by The Drifters. A couple of songs from a later era including “Be My Baby” by The Ronettes and “Gypsy Woman” by The Impressions have been incorporated by Neville into that classic sound with lead vocals and strong harmony singers.
So take a little ride down memory lane with Aaron Neville and My True Story. And I suggest you buy as many New Orleans and Doo-Wop albums as you can … after all, Record Store Day is coming up on the 20th.