Sunday, June 23, 2024

Ivan Neville Celebrates New Orleans Ahead of Mardi Gras

Ivan Neville has released the official music video for Greatest Place On Earth’, one of the standout tracks from his latest album, Touch My Soul.

Premiering just before the New Orleans’ Mardi Gras festivities, the video is a heartfelt ode to the city’s unparalleled energy during its most famous season, intertwining authentic Mardi Gras scenes with compelling studio performances by Neville and his ensemble.

New Orleans tribute ‘Greatest Place On Earth, is a slice of street corner soul; a deliriously Mardi Gras-styled salute to the crescent city packed with incisive rhythms, booting horn parts, and vocal fireworks, and features special guests Trombone Shorty along with Preservation Hall Jazz bandleaders Ben Jaffe and Charlie Gabriel.

Neville commented, “I’m proud to offer a glimpse into the unique & soulful city of New Orleans, my hometown, the greatest place on earth!” You can check out the music video right here at RAMzine.

Touch My Soul was Ivan Neville’s first solo album in nearly 20 years. “It’s taken me years to understand that it’s all about the journey, it’s not about the finish line,” Neville said, poignantly. “Everything serves a purpose. We just have to pay attention. So I look for blessings everywhere.”

Touch My Soul is available via Mascot Label Group/The Funk Garage and was preceded by singles such as Hey All Together’ that featured vocal contributions from Bonnie Raitt, Aaron Neville, Michael McDonald and David Shaw (The Revivalists), with instrumental sparks from Troy ‘Trombone Shorty’ Andrews and violinist Theresa Anderson.

‘Hey All Together’ was inspired by an epiphany Neville had at the beginning of the album’s recording process. “When I was growing up, people interacted differently on the street,” he recalled. “There was a feeling of connection.” That sense of community-mindedness extends throughout the album’s opening track. “I wanted familiar voices to bring back a feeling of community,” Neville explained. “I figured, if everyone said hello to a stranger, spontaneously but within reason, it might make the world a better place. It certainly can’t hurt.”  

Like many of tracks on the album, that single exudes an unmistakable New Orleans ambiance while breathing new life into Neville’s singular sound; it’s a love letter to the Crescent City and intended as a celebration of his emotional and spiritual journey as an artist, a human, a father, and a man.

The full album track list is: ‘Hey All Together’ (Featuring Aaron Neville, Bonnie Raitt, Michael McDonald, Trombone Shorty, Dave Shaw), ‘Greatest Place On Earth’ (Ft. Trombone Shorty, Ben Jaffe, Charlie Gabriel), ‘Might Last A Lifetime’ (Ft. Cyril Neville), ‘Dance Music Love’ (Ft. Doyle Bramall II), ‘Touch My Soul’, ‘Stand For Something’, ‘Blessed’, ‘This Must Be The Place’, ‘Pass It All Around’, and ‘Beautiful Tears (Thoughts & Prayers)’.

As a standard bearer for the musical culture of New Orleans, Neville takes his anointing as seriously as the swamp water that courses through his veins. From the ferocious funk he makes with his bandmates in the funk supergroup Dumpstaphunk to his high-profile gigs over the years with Keith Richards and Bonnie Raitt, he embodies the irrepressible spirit of New Orleans, holding the keys to the Crescent City at his fingertips. Whether summoning the barrelhouse mambo of Professor Longhair, the spidery intricacies of James Booker; or spooky, atmospheric chords like Dr. John; he can riff like Sly Stone with catchy, melodic chord progressions; or throw intense, impulsive jabs when he jams with his musical kin in Dumpstaphunk.
 
“I haven’t written any new material for myself in a long time,” Neville explained at the time, “so this project is very special to me. I made it up as I went along, a song here and there, in between my work with Dumpstaphunk and my work with good musical friends. Music is a way to make people feel better, it brings spiritual healing.”

Musically, he constructed Touch My Soul around piano pieces that he composed in the portrait photograph- filled “sun room” in his house in Uptown New Orleans. “The drum loops were inspired by the sounds I heard on Sly Stone’s Fresh album,” he said, “which was a big influence on me as a teen.” While vocals on his previous albums have always been tart and sweet, his voice comes from a more evolved place on Touch My Soul, and makes sense nearly 20 years removed from his last solo effort Scrape (2004).
 
“People try to warn us about the risks in life, but we want to learn for ourselves,” he said. “And we have a choice whether we want to learn from our mistakes. I believe the more we embrace our vulnerabilities, our imperfections, our insecurities, the better we become. That’s my goal: stay teachable.” The lyrics and compositions in Touch My Soul are said to reflect that maturity.

Neville’s blood line runs through two of the most influential groups that New Orleans has ever produced, and he grew up playing with them both. His uncle Art ‘Poppa Funk Neville was vocalist and keyboardist with The Meters, the seminal New Orleans funk band and one of modern music’s most sampled groups. Art also founded The Neville Brothers with Ivan’s uncles Charles and Cyril, and Ivan’s father, the world renown balladeer and vocal stylist Aaron Neville. The Nevilles’ musical range not only spanned generations but also idioms like carnival rhythms, pop, soul, R&B, and jazz; their collective identity galvanized Black New Orleans’s cultural life to create a musical identity that focused their individual gifts with grace and grit.
 
While Ivan Neville grew up playing the music of his family, Touch My Soul delivers another chapter of Ivan’s own songbook and musical DNA.
 
Touch My Soul is not unlike a good bowl of homemade gumbo, he added, “very soothing for the soul.” Which is what he strives to bring to the world as an artist and a fellow traveller. “When I think about the way music has touched my soul and all the songs that became special moments in my life, I become very emotional. Music should touch your soul. I hope this record and this music touches someone’s soul.”

You can order Touch My Soul on CD, vinyl or digitally by clicking here and check out some of the videos here at RAMzine.

Paul H Birch
Paul H Birch
RAMzine Senior Writer - Writer of fiction, faction and fact, has edited several newsstand magazines. He declares himself a hack for hire but refuses to compromise on the subject of music.

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