Biography Royal Southern Brotherhood

Chemistry. You either got it or you don’t. When the five members of Royal Southern Brotherhood convened in February at Dockside Studios, Louisiana, there was magic in the air. Just seven days later, the acclaimed US soul-blues collective emerged triumphant with The Royal Gospel: the fourth album in their rocket-heeled rise and further proof of a lineup born to play together.
    Enough has been said about Royal Southern Brotherhood’s illustrious backstory. Enough has been written about the critical acclaim and sell-out crowds that greeted the original lineup’s 2012 breakout. Right now, fans would rather hear about the questing new material and finger-on-pulse worldview of The Royal Gospel, released 2016 on Ruf Records. Amen to that.
Like all the best groups, Royal Southern Brotherhood have evolved. Having bonded on 2015’s Don’t Look Back, the MkII lineup of Cyril Neville (percussion/vocals), Bart Walker (guitar/vocals), Tyrone Vaughan (guitar/vocals) and Yonrico Scott (drums) have found another gear on The Royal Gospel, bolstered by new recruit Darrell Phillips (bass/vocals), plus guest B3 from Norman Caesar. “As far as the men making the music and playing the songs,” says Neville, “the mission of the band has never changed.”
    Scan the credits for The Royal Gospel and you’ll recognise that while some bands operate a songwriting dictatorship, this one thrives on material penned in partnership (or even originated between three members). Neville is as prolific as you’d expect – given the fistful of projects he’s kept spinning over the decades – but so too are Walker and Vaughan, who collaborated remotely with their bandleader, trading ideas back-and-forth via the Web.
“It’s not often that you find a connection like me and Cyril,” explains Walker, whose Nashville home is some 800 miles from Neville’s base in New Orleans. “It got to the point where we were almost in each other’s heads – and we had already worked out what the other one was gonna say.”
    “It’s a very spiritual thing,” agrees Neville. “I kinda laughed, because Bart was getting ahead of what I was even thinking. Last time, we actually got together in the room to do the demos. This time, it was all done by iPhone and stuff like that. But when you taste this musical gumbo, you’re gonna be very satisfied, however we approached the kitchen.”
    When the band and famed producer David Z arrived at Dockside, the recording ethos was unapologetically old-school: simply cut the songs live in the room, eyeball-to-eyeball, in a minimum of takes. “We walked in not really knowing what we were gonna do,” recalls Phillips. “Cyril and Bart come to us with chord progressions, tempos and ideas, and we build together. We’d just fall right into the thing and all of a sudden, there’s the song. On this record, we came together as a band. It was a magical thing to witness.”

Biography Ian Parker

ian parker - 21st century blues man

Expressed through a distinctive bitter-sweet vocal delivery and harrowing guitar work, Ian's songs hold nothing back. His ability and willingness to share with his audience, naked honesty and genuine emotion, is what sets him apart.

Drawing on an eclectic range of influences, this young man is fast becoming Britain's best loved blues/roots performer. A songwriter genuinely literate, sometimes almost literary, Ian is an original craftsman rooted in the blues but not trapped by any desire to replicate the past. He is without doubt a relevant contemporary blues man.

Ian signed to Ruf Records following a personal introduction to US record producer, David Z (Prince - Purple Rain). His debut album 'INSIDE' (Ruf1094) was released in October 2003.

" I was truly honoured to be involved in this project." David Z

In March 2004, Ian appeared on Germany's top live music TV show, 'Rockpalast' as part of the 'Crossroads Festival'. Ian and his band were voted the number one act of the festival and a live DVD of this incendiary performance was released in June 2005, entitled '...WHILST THE WIND' (Ruf3007).

In addition to the DVD, a live album documenting Ian's performance in Hannover during his December 2004 European Tour, was also released in June 2005 under the same title (Ruf1102). Both releases met with high critical acclaim and continue to notch up impressive sales.

In September 2005, Ian wrote and recorded five songs for a Ruf Records project album, 'PILGRIMAGE' (Ruf1112) which was recorded in Clarksdale, Mississippi and Memphis, Tennessee, and released in January 2006. The recording of Pilgrimage, not only extended Ian's touring activities throughout Europe and importantly into the US, it also had a profound effect on the artist's musical direction and focus.

On return from America in September 2005, Ian began a lengthy artistic process based around his rediscovery of the blues and soul artists who had inspired him to begin playing as a teenager. This period of consolidation culminated in the recording of the album 'WHERE I BELONG' (Ruf1120), released in February 2007.

'WHERE I BELONG' was recorded in Cheltenham, England and produced by Matt Butler, whose extensive CV includes none other than Sir Paul McCartney. Recorded analogue to tape, the album has the rich and warm sonic characteristics associated with the pre-digital age, but there is nothing retro about this release. 'WHERE I BELONG' has something for all blues fans, purists and progressives alike. It catalogues the pronounced growth and self-discovery of a modern blues artist who is here to stay.

"The best band I've seen in a decade - Ian's voice, feel and guitar technique are what his contemporaries can only dream of!" WALTER TROUT

"Skilfully crafted, emotionally expressive and honest original songs." BRYN SLACK (Austin Slack Music)

Biography Omar Kent Dykes & Jimmie Vaughan

The Jimmy Reed Highway is a well-traveled thoroughfare as storied and rich in legend throughout the southern United States as Robert Johnson's mythical Crossroads. It runs through the minds of men and women of a certain age, complexion, and place who grew up during the era of segregation and who defied their parents, the law, and all genteel propriety and custom by answering one bluesman's invitation to cross the color line and join him getting lowdown and dirty as he serenaded a generation from the bandstand, on jukeboxes, and through the radio.

To them, the slurred guttural sound of a wise man singing "Hush, Hush," putting down the "Big Boss Man" or advising the listener to "Take Out Some Insurance" before they behold the "Bright Lights, Big City" was a siren's call they had no choice but to answer. Even if they tried, they couldn't resist the steady, dirty rhythm punctuated by the twanging sting of an electric guitar note and the sweet wail of a harmonica. And when they leaned in close, they could even hear the barely perceptible sound of a woman's voice whispering forgotten lyrics into an ear.

Ain't nobody can do Jimmy Reed like Jimmy Reed could. But this drive down Jimmy Reed Highway with fellow Mississippian Kent "Omar" Dykes at the wheel with Jimmie Vaughan (older brother of the legendary Stevie Ray Vaughan) riding shotgun and folks like, Kim Wilson, Miss Lou Ann Barton, James Cotton, Delbert McClinton, and Gary Clark, Jr., joining the duo, comes mighty close. As Omar guns the engine and peels rubber on the two-lane blacktop lined with no-good women, empty whiskey bottles, too many cigarette butts and bad intentions, he leaves John Law trailing behind eating his dust. Hop in for a ride and turn up the volume. The electric bluesman who shaped the minds and moves of a musical generation is alive and well. by Joe Nick Patoski

Biography Omar & The Howlers

Austin, besides being the Texas state capital, is home to much of the best in American roots music. Since the 1970s, ballsy blues players, renegade country pickers, and raw-voiced rockers have mixed & matched their musical styles in Austin's thriving club scene. And that's where Kent "Omar" Dykes holds court too. And it's also where he's recorded his latest Ruf album, Boogie Man, working with some of his adopted hometown's most famous songwriters and musicians.

He hails from McComb, Miss., a town with the curious distinction of being home turf for both Bo Diddley and Britney Spears. It's well established that Omar started playing guitar at seven, took to hanging out in edge-of-town juke joints at 12, joined his first band at 13 - the next youngest player being 50 - and played the sort of music where somebody bustin' a cap at somebody else was just added percussion.

He was still Kent Dykes in those days, but by the time he hit 20 he had hooked up with a crazy-assed party band, called the Howlers, who specialised in playing frat parties. Looking back, he says, "We had two saxophone players on baritone and tenor who wore Henry Kissinger masks. They were called the Kissinger brothers. Not on every song, mind you. Sometimes it was Dolly Parton playing saxophone. Or Cher. And we had these cardboard cut-outs from record stores for skits." They even did fake ads for Sunshine Collard Greens and Howlers' Fried Chicken - "for that old-fashioned taste that tastes just like Grandma."

It was a crazy time, but a helluva lot of fun too, with the rough & tumble Howlers playing R&B, R&R and even the occasional polka and western swing tune. A decade earlier and 250 miles north of McComb, Steve Cropper and Duck Dunn had learned their chops exactly the same way as members of the Memphis party band the Mar-Keys.

But Kent Dykes mostly just wanted to play blues. And by then the other Howlers had taken to calling him "Omar Overtone" because he tended to let his guitar feed back on stage while he dropped to the floor to spin on his back in a spontaneous, Big & Tall Store take on break-dancing. As he says, those performances were "sometimes fueled by, a-hmm, alcohol."

By 1976, the Howlers decided they were ready to bust a big move and relocate to Austin, where such clubs as the Soap Creek Saloon, the Broken Spoke, the Armadillo World Headquarters and Antone's had created a haven for renegade music. "We worked out of Austin for about a year," Omar says, "but a lot of the guys decided they weren't cut out to play music full-time for the rest of their lives. They headed back to Mississippi and Arkansas, and I decided to keep the name. Nobody objected." And as Dykes says, Omar & The Howlers works better than Kent & The Howlers. Of such decisions are careers made.

Fronting a new line-up, Dykes honed a band capable of the sort of raw, rowdy, rambunctious blues that made Howlin' Wolf and Hound Dog Taylor legends and inspired Don Van Vliet to become Captain Beefheart.

By then the Fabulous Thunderbirds were also getting started in Austin and T-Bird member Jimmie Vaughan's kid brother, Stevie Ray, had formed Triple Threat with Lou Ann Barton, future Double Trouble-r Chris Layton and Jackie Newhouse (LeRoi Brothers). The T-Birds were the first to record, cutting their debut in 1979, but Omar wasn't far behind with "Big Leg Beat" in 1980. His second, "I Told You So", in 1984 made them the big men on the block - or at least along Austin's famed Sixth Street - earning them consecutive Austin band-of-the-year awards in 1985-1986.

The following year Omar signed with Columbia Records and cut "Hard Times In The Land of Plenty" (1987), which sold in excess 500,000 copies, and "Wall of Pride" (1988). Since then there have been another dozen albums, all of them featuring Omar's guitar and baritone voice, which reviewers describe as a cross between Howlin' Wolf in his prime and the warning growl of a large primate. Hyperbole aside, the big man's talents have earned an international following, prestigious awards and induction into the Texas musicians' Hall of Fame.

For "Boogie Man", his newest release on the Ruf label, Omar has brought in some of the songwriter friends he's made in the 27 years since he left Mississippi for Texas. Ten of the 11 tracks on the 55-minute disc are collaborations. "Co-writing at this point in my life is a lot of fun. To me it's like free songs. These are ones that I wouldn't have had the patience to sit down and write on my own. But when you get with friends and drink coffee, tell jokes and stories, and then write something, it always turns out to be something different than what you might have done on your own."

Plus it's not exactly heavy lifting to work with such Texas icons as Ray Wyle Hubbard, Darden Smith, Alejandro Escovedo and Stephen Bruton. "Some of them I hadn't seen for a while," Omar says, "because like me they're in bands and on the road. So when we got together, we end up reminiscing a lot. For instance, I've known Ray Wyle off and on for 20 years - acquaintances for a long time but pretty good friends now. In the old days, he was busy drinking and partying on his own, and I had my own party going on too."

Besides the songwriting collaborators, Omar also brought some friends into the recording studio, including guitarists Chris Duarte and Jon Dee Graham (True Believers), Chris Layton and Tommy Shannon of Stevie Ray Vaughan's Double Trouble, George Rains (Sir Douglas Quintet and house drummer on scores of Antone's label releases) and his frequent running-mates Terry Bozzio (Missing Persons, Jeff Beck, Frank Zappa) and Malcolm "Papa Mali" Welbourne.

About the recording process, Omar says, "I played out for seven and a half months, with only a few days off, and I'd spend those cutting in the studio. I would have liked to take the time off to relax, but it was a lot of satisfaction writing and recording with my friends too. This was an album I've wanted to do for a long, long time."

As for future plans, Omar says he'll be back on the road soon. "I still do 150-160 shows a year, and with travel days that adds up to a lot of time away from home. It always seems like we're on a plane headed somewhere."

Or as he sums things up in "That's Just My Life": It's a long way from Pittsburgh down to Knoxville, Tenn.. But I'm in it for the long haul, and that's all right with me. Nighttime keeps me in the roadhouse, daylight's burning up the miles, the blacktop goes forever, I was born a highway child.

Omar & The Howlers

Biography Coco Montoya

Born October 2, 1951, Coco grew up in Southern California during the late 1950's and early 1960's, Montoya was immersed in music at an early age. Whether it was his father's big band records or his older brothers and sisters rock and roll records or the early rock and roll and doo wap that flooded AM radio, Coco took it all in with open ears. At the same time, English musicians like John Mayall and Eric Clapton were developing blues styles. "When I first heard Eric Clapton doing "Hideaway," was my re-education into the blues."
As a teen, Montoya discovered the guitar as a way to voice the inner feelings that needed expression. "I remember being young and having a hard time expressing myself. When I found the guitar, I found the way to express my heart." But it was as a drummer in local rock bands that first put Coco on stage.
Then seeing Albert King showed the youth how to play the blues. "I went to see Iron Butterfly and Creedence Clearwater and a guy named Albert King was playing in between them. He picked up his guitar, did "Watermelon Man," and changed my whole life. That was the first time I heard music that came from the heart."
Montoya is a self taught guitar slinger who plays with an emotional intensity few string benders possess. Playing left-handed and up side down like Albert King, Montoya learned his guitar techniques from his years with Collins. "I never had a lesson in my life. "I would watch other guitar players to catch what they did. I would wait for that one moment when they would do it, and just stare at them and try and remember where their hand was, where their fingers were.
"People ask, 'Did you take lessons from Albert?' It's more from just hanging out in the hotel rooms. He would grab his guitar and I would pick up one and we'd play I just learned by listening, all by ear. I just play it the way I hear it. He was always saying, 'Don't think about it, just feel it.' He taught me to tap into an inner strength. I don't know all the licks in the world, but I know the ones I can express happiness or sadness or emotion."
From 1976 until 1984, Montoya had lost some of the feel for music and worked bartender jobs to survive. In 1984, his second mentor, John Mayall, was celebrating his birthday in a bar where Montoya was performing. Montoya's from the hip version of "All Your Love" caught Mayall's ear and Coco was asked to pack his Strat and follow previous Bluesbreaker guitarists Eric Clapton, Peter Green and Mick Taylor in the Bluesbreakers. "I would never be doing what I'm doing now if I hadn't gotten the phone call from John Mayall."
After three records with Mayall as a member of the Bluesbreakers, Coco decided in 1993 it was time to take the lessons from his two musical fathers and begin to sculpt a solo career. In the early 1990's he was signed to Blind Pig Records and released three critically acclaimed discs, Gotta Mind To Travel, Ya Think I'd Know Better, and Just Let Go.
In the middle of his Blind Pig days, Coco also received national recognition when he was named the Blues Foundation's Best New Blue Artist at the 1996 Blues Music Awards.
In 2000, Coco took his music up a notch and signed with Alligator Records, the country's top blues label. In his seven years with Alligator, Coco released three more outstanding records, Suspicion, Can't Look Back, and 2007's Dirty Deal.
Today, in 2009, Coco Montoya has found a new home in the old world. Europe's premier blues label, Ruf Records, signed the guitar giant and is poised to bring Coco Montoya's heart to a world audience. I Want It All Back is the first step in that commitment. Now, in 2014, he releases his first live CD set Songs From The Roads.

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