Take one Allman Brother, one Neville Brother, and one of the best guitarists on the blues circuit, put them together and you've got the Royal Southern Brotherhood.
Assembled in 2011, the band brings together Devon Allman — the guitar-playing son of Gregg Allman — percussionist Cyril Neville of the Neville Brothers, and Blues Music Award winning guitarist Mike Zito.
So how did the group come about?
"That's the question of the week," says Allman. "Cyril, Mike and I have the same manager. Mike and Cyril wrote a song that won Blues Music Song of the Year [2009's "Greyhound"]. Mike and I go back to working at the Guitar Center in St. Louis. It's crazy how all these relationships work. We were sitting around going, 'Why didn't the Neville Brothers and the Allman Brothers do anything together?' Our manager said 'We've got an Allman and a Neville, why don't we do something?'"
The trio then enlisted bassist Charlie Wooton, a fixture on the Southern jam scene, and drummer Yonrico Scott, who'd played with the Derek Trucks Band and the Allman Brothers, and started jamming.
"I knew it was something special in the first hour in the first jam," Allman says. There was so much synchronicity and heart and soul in that room. You just know. It's like when you meet someone you want to date. You know in 30 minutes."
Those jams took place in New Orleans, as did the band's earliest shows, which included 2011's Jazz & Heritage Festival. So it's natural that the band's self-titled debut album has a strong Crescent City feel.
"There's definitely a New Orleans vibe to it," says the guitarist. "The band was born in New Orleans, all the rehearsals and writing were there, the whole thing. We started playing a lot of shows around Jazz Fest. The album was recorded just outside Lafayette. It has its own thing, too. There's some Memphis on it for sure. But it's New Orleans."
That said, the record can't be easily pigeonholed. There's some blues, but it's not a blues record. There's some rock and funk as well.
"I'm glad you can't come up with a label," says Allman. "That tells me there's some timeless stuff there and a bunch of different styles knocking around. I'd say it's an electrified soul record with a lot of vibe. You can take that and run with it."
The album debuted at No. 1 on the blues charts when it was released in May 2012. Allman feels one reason the album works so well is because the music is authentic.
"We're trying to perpetuate music from back in the day that we all love. The industry today is filled with so much crap, when you do get something that's real, it connects. It's a really good time to put out a record like this."
The band will be traveling around the country for much of this spring and summer, playing a wide range of venues.
"It's anywhere they have potato chips and electricity, you know what I mean? This is the main thing in our musical lives and we want to do it for as long as we can."