The Neville Mothers
Gaynielle Neville gathered a tribe of talented local ladies to create her first solo album, “Woman Power.”
“I’m excited and nervous at the same time,” said the singer-songwriter and member of New Orleans’ first family of soul, the Nevilles.
Neville’s CD release show is Saturday at the Maple Leaf Bar. She’ll be performing with Cassandra Faulconer, Jan Clements, Joy Clark, Jazmine Butler, Tonya Boyd, Dane Ruffins and the Young Nevilles, featuring Jason and Damion Neville.
More than a year in the making, “Woman Power” includes songs Neville wrote with Beth Patterson, Clements, Norman Caesar and her daughter, Liryca Neville. Musicians in the studio included drummer Boyanna Trayanova, bassist Faulconer and keyboardists Keiko Komaki and Clements. Ruffins, Deri Tucker and Liryca Neville sang backup.
“I’m glad that we got to experience it together because it’s one of the best projects of my life,” Gaynielle Neville said.
Following Neville family tradition, “Woman Power” also features Neville’s husband, Cyril, playing percussion, and their son, Omari, as musical supervisor. Further male participation included former Neville Brothers band guitarist Cranston Clements, co-songwriter Caesar and horn players Corey Henry and Travis Hill.
“So it’s a CD that has woman power and man power, the equal sides to life,” Neville said.
Omari Neville’s production work was a natural fit, she added.
“He has it in his blood,” she said. “He knew what sound needed to be where, what vocals needed to be taken in or taken out. He really was a big help to me.”
Despite some significant male talent in “Woman Power,” feminine voices dominate. Doing a female-centered project had been a goal of Neville’s for years.
“I’d always wanted to see how a bunch of women would sound together and if they could do it together,” she said.
“I knew that it was going to be emotions and hormones in the room, but while we were doing the music, it was awesome.”
Many male musicians in the past held firm to the belief that women could never play musical instruments as well as men. Neville counters that old myth with three words: Sister Rosetta Tharpe. A fiery gospel music star, singer-guitarist Tharpe caused much controversy when she entered secular music in the early 1950s.
“She was the baddest guitar player ever,” Neville said. “For me, she was really the start of rock ’n’ roll. Oh, yeah, women can play. Maybe we can’t pick up heavy machinery, but we can do just as much as far as contributing music and spirituality to the universe.”
In tune with the social consciousness that has long been part of the Neville family’s music, the tragic death of a child inspired one of the album’s songs, “Caught in the Crossfire.”
“I think music is the key to stopping all this craziness,” Neville said. “It’s a soul quencher. So let’s continue the music and continue the love and the world will be OK.”
In addition to seven original songs, the album also features remakes of Baton Rouge band Louisiana’s LeRoux’s classic ballad “New Orleans Ladies,” and New Orleans drummer Smokey Johnson’s funk landmark “It Ain’t My Fault.” “New Orleans Ladies” gets a major makeover while “It Ain’t My Fault,” originally an instrumental, gets lyrics.
“Woman Power” arrives in the same year as Gaynielle and Cyril Neville’s 30th wedding anniversary. They were married Aug. 24, 1984.
“He and I are one,” she said. “Every day is our anniversary.”