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Music Review: Neville a heavenly match for gospel tunes

Music Review: Neville a heavenly match for gospel tunes

Aaron Neville, "I Know I've Been Changed" (Tell It Records)

November 9th, 2010 by STEVEN WINE, Associated Press Writer in News

Aaron Neville singing gospel music is a match made in heaven, and the Lord had an assist from producer Joe Henry and pianist Allen Toussaint on "I Know I've Been Changed."

Henry wisely went with sparse arrangements that put the focus on Neville's velvety vibrato. Toussaint - who happened to produce Neville's first recording session 50 years ago - gives these spiritual standards a lively pulse with his deft touch. The song selection is astute, with material from such disparate sources as Odetta, Merle Travis, Mississippi Fred McDowell and the 19th century ("Oh Freedom").

Like Henry, Neville realizes less can be more, and he sings with economy and delicacy. Understated doesn't mean subdued: The songs swing, and there's a lot going on here. For example, the title cut combines a gospel piano, country guitar, Stax organ and blues structure, showing how gospel cross-pollinates with other genres.

There's no rap, though - only rapture.

CHECK THIS OUT: Neville needs little time to warm up. He never oversings, but at the start of the opening cut, "Stand By Me," he does caress one blissful syllable for more than a dozen notes.