Since their last Syracuse appearance in summer 2012, Royal Southern Brotherhood has hit the road (and flown the friendly skies) hard. Tours around the United States, Europe and Australia have kept the band busy with one blistering show after another.
The practice has paid off. Tight as the group was when they last visited Upstairs at Dinosaur Bar-B-Que, they’ve ascended to a new level thanks to tremendous touring time.
Although the group spent a solid slot of their set ripping covers at the Chenango Blues Fest on Saturday, Aug. 17, it was their originals that stood out with more audible conviction and identity than before. While the individual skills of the band—featuring Devon Allman (Gregg Allman’s son), Cyrille Neville (of the Neville Brothers), Mike Zito, Charlie Wooten and Yonrico Scott (of the Derek Trucks Band)—were always impressive, the evolving cohesion is what sells the show.
Traded guitar licks lit up the set when the Brotherhood closed the two-day fest that also hosted talents like Ben Prestage, Valerie June, The Honey Island Swamp Band and Larry McCray. The ideal summer night intensified as the electricity transferred from amps and guitars to a buzzing crowd. Allman’s mutton chops had him looking more like his uncle Duane than ever and twin guitar harmonies with Zito reminded of the lineage as well.
Although Zito and Allman are their own players (Zito buries his head and rips with fantastic tone while Allman opts for flash), the identities make for an intriguing interplay only made more interesting by the band’s other personalities. Wooten is vicious on bass, effortlessly tossing genres around in his playing. And combined with the ever-energetic and completely solid Scott, the duo makes for a righteous rhythm section backbone. Throw the legendary Neville on top of that combination, and the result is a band that continues to come more into its own.
Many songs were familiar from the band’s eponymous first album, including “New Horizon” and “Sweet Jelly Donut,” but new material also slithered into the set. Since last swinging through, Allman released his solo album, Turquoise, in February and Mike Zito and The Wheel released Gone To Texas in June. Even with the hectic touring time, the solo creativity audibly helps bring new ideas and energy to the whole. The more the band integrates those individual strengths into their sound machine, the better they get.
For a group that’s accustomed to playing massive festivals with thousands in the crowd (the Chenango Blues Fest lawn was full on Saturday), playing an intimate Dino gig is a rare treat for both parties. For listeners looking to get close enough for players to sweat on them, this is probably one of the only opportunities you’ll get. Be there early and be ready to get intimate: Seeing the kind of show Royal Southern Brotherhood puts on the big stage, they’re bound to blow the roof off and the windows out of Dino (even more than before). There will be plenty of sweat to go around.