Guest-infested funk-fest from the City of Angels’ blues grinder.
Not a household name, Vernon Neilly’s been well connected to the twilight zone of versatile players from across America ever since moonlighting with the likes of Etta James, and he knows all too well that, in order to shine, one needs contrast. That’s possibly why this album sees the guitarist surrounded by many a friend and is bookended by Hendrix’s “Fire” – stoked by TM Stevens’ bass and the riffs from Greg Howe, Neilly’s sidekick on his 2008’s tribute to Stevie Wonder – but that’s where covers start and stop now.
Running a tight-but-loose groove through seven pieces, Vernon’s vocals and guitar wail keep occasional shredding reined in while adding urban rhymes to the title track and “They Don’t Care” to set nervous urgency against six-string stampede. Yet if “Git’ Yo’ Lyfe Rite” has funk married to fusion to a memorable effect, thanks to Victor Johnson’s harmonious input, “Meta Funk Trip” is unfolding into a twangy adventure for the main man, MEGADETH’s Kiko Loureiro and Jennifer Batten who bounce off Juan Nelson and Philip Bynoe’s bottom end. This seriousness may be undermined when “So Far Away” resolves in simple blues shuffle, but it’s “Nassau Nights” that, melding Neilly’s own licks to the web of Frank Gambale and Cacau Santos’ solos, is wrapped in incendiary samba and does the trick of breaking outta time.
Quite concise, this album comes as a master class in having sophisticated fun, although its appeal can be limited to the students of such art.