Aaron Neville's "Tell It Like It Is" is the best soul song ever recorded, and I'll wrastle anyone who challenges that fact. But Neville's career, with and without his famous New Orleans brothers, has swung widely between authentic provincial masterpieces and broader pop pabulum. He's trotted through every genre -- country, standards, 2010's fine gospel turn, "I Know I've Been Changed" -- but "My True Story," his debut for the Blue Note label, feels less like marketing and more like the man.
That's because the songs comprising "My True Story" are all of a genre no timid marketer would tackle in 2013: doo-wop.
Co-produced the Rolling Stones' Keith Richards, who's also in the band (and, yes, there are some relevant Chuck Berry collaboration comparisons to be made here), these tunes sound remarkably fresh -- certainly refreshing when, say, they show up in an mp3-player's shuffle mode -- and Neville lets 'em rip like he's on the stoop instead of in the studio. In fine voice at age 71, Neville revives hits like "Be My Baby" and "Under the Boardwalk" and gems such as the Clovers' "Ting a Ling" and Curtis Mayfield's "Gypsy Woman." Along with Keef, the impressive guest list includes Paul Simon, Joan Osborne, keyboardist Benmont Tench and more. But the tale of "My True Story" is less one of recovering or updating a dusty old genre as much as one of pros throwing a tuneful rent party for anyone who wants to come by. It's a magic moment.