New Orleans Supergroup Royal Southern Brotherhood's Mike Zito: "Southern Rock Has Never Really Gone Away" | County Grind | South Florida | Broward Palm Beach New Times | The Leading Independent News Source in Broward-Palm Beach, Florida


New Orleans Supergroup Royal Southern Brotherhood's Mike Zito: "Southern Rock Has Never Really Gone Away"

For many, certain musical concepts can quickly become redundant. Supergroups? They're so '70s. Southern rock? So very '60s. Blues? Been there, done that. Naturally, then, any band that offers up all three could be considered something of an anachronism. 

Or not. Enter Royal Southern Brotherhood, a band whose very name touts the conceits that make them so special. Charter members include famous names like Neville and Allman -- Cyril and Devon, respectively -- the former being an original member of New Orleans' own Meters and Neville Brothers, the latter an offspring of Greg Allman and also the nephew of the late, great Duane Allman. Others filling out the roster include veteran bluesman Mike Zito, ace bassist Charlie Wooten, and respected drummer and groove merchant Yonrico Scott.

"Southern rock has never really gone away, and I think what makes this band different is the mixing of the New Orleans funky dance rhythms with the Southern-rock blues guitars," Zito explains, speaking long distance from a clearly noisy nightclub. 

"I don't think we're setting the world on fire, but we are doing something special. New Orleans music is more popular than ever now, so I think it's just a good combination, and it comes along at the right time." 

Despite the big names, this band's self-titled debut album demonstrates that the band genuinely delivers thanks to a stirring blend of Southern sass and near-anthemic aptitude. Little wonder, then, that song titles like "Left My Heart in Memphis," "Moonlight Over the Mississippi," and, um, "Sweet Jelly Donut" actually affirm that strong soulful sensibility.

This fortuitous collaboration didn't exactly coalesce by chance. Zito and Neville had known each other for a couple of years, having cowritten a song titled "Pearl River," which became the title track to one of Zito's recent albums. Zito had an even longer history with Devon Allman, one that stretched back nearly 20 years, to when the two worked together in a St. Louis music store. 

Still, Zito credits his management with conceiving the idea of them joining forces as a band. "My manager called and said, 'I think the three of you ought to get together and try some stuff and see if there's something there,'" Zito  recalls. "So we said 'OK,' and last May, we tried it out and wrote some songs, and it worked out pretty good. And a couple of months later, we played some shows, and that's when Charlie Wooten arrived. Then it just kept progressing. By then, we thought we really had something and decided we ought to record an album as a band. That's when Yonrico Scott's name was brought up. One by one, everything just kind of fell into place."

Still, with several viable headliners, each with his own impressive résumé, it would seem to take some sort of mutual accommodation to make this combustible combination viable. "That's what really kind of made it interesting," Zito suggests. "We thought, 'What if we do this? What if we do that. Let's bring these people together. You've got these different singers and these different songwriters, so let's see if this works.' At first, I had my questions, and even my doubts, as to how we would do it, but by the time we got together, it was very natural and easy. When you listen to the album, it sounds like a unique band with its own sound, but everyone still sounds like who they are individually. That's what really makes this group special."

Conceivably, players fighting for attention might pose problems, but Zito insists instead that it's the chemistry that makes the music thrive. "That's one of the great things about being in this band," he maintains. "There's that sense of competition. Everybody just wants to do their best. We each got to write from a different place, and it brought out the best in everybody. On any given night, hopefully the audience gets its money's worth, because each of us are really pushing each other."

Royal Southern Brotherhood perform at 9 p.m. Friday, September 28, at Bamboo Room, 25 S. J St., Lake Worth. Tickets cost $25 in advance, $28 on day of show. Phone 561-585-BLUE.

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Lee Zimmerman

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