Album Reviews for Jan. 18, 2013

Photo by SARAH A. FRIEDMAN -- Aaron NevilleAaron Neville and Dr. John are among the headliners at the 2014 Chicago Blues Festival in June.
Photo by SARAH A. FRIEDMAN -- Aaron NevilleAaron Neville and Dr. John are among the headliners at the 2014 Chicago Blues Festival in June.

Aaron Neville MY TRUE STORY

My True Story is the album Aaron Neville wanted to make for years. It’s his own true collection of standards from the doo-wop era and beyond. To be released Tuesday, Jan. 22, My True Story is the New Orleans singing star’s beautiful homage to a decade or so of vocal group history.

As always, Neville sings with heart and soul, love and tenderness. But an album of vocal group music requires multiple voices. Co-producers Don Was and Keith Richards and a band of complementary musicians and singers including Richards and organist Benmont Tench (from Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers) help bring Neville’s dream project to fruition.

There’s nothing phoned in or manufactured about My True Story. It has the warmth and immediacy of recordings made in the 1950s and early ’60s. It’s a recording made by seasoned musicians playing real instruments and real singers singing and harmonizing together.

Neville, one of rhythm-and-blues’ premiere singers for decades, has a genuine claim to music he loved and sang along with while he was growing up in the Calliope housing project in the 1950s. Still a teenager, he made his early solo recordings in the early 1960s. And the presence of authentic doo-wop era vocalists for My True Story— specifically Eugene Pitt from the Jive Five, Bobby Jay from the Teenagers and Dickie Harmon from the Del-Vikings — makes the album all the more true.

My True Story romps with good-rocking renditions of Clyde McPhatter’s “Money Honey” and Dion’s “Ruby Baby.” Neville changes the mood by applying his expressive falsetto to the Jive Five’s 1961 ballad, “My True Story.” “And we must cry, cry our blues away” he sings with trademark emotion.

The Clovers, one of the giant groups of early R&B, are represented by a swaggering take on 1952’s “Ting-a-Ling.” Accompanied by a band including two essential R&B instruments, tenor and baritone sax, Neville laments, “I’m just a poor young boy, and these girls are ’bout to drive me wild.”

My True Story continues with a majestic medley of “This Magic Moment” and “True Love,” a passionate “Tears On My Pillow” and joyful “Little Bitty Pretty One.” An album obviously made with love, it’s easily among the great Aaron Neville solo projects.

John Wirt