Today, Ivan Neville has announced ‘Touch My Soul,’ his first solo album in nearly 20 years, out 4/21 via Mascot Label Group / The Funk Garage. Tough-minded but tender, filled with joy, beauty, and pain, ‘Touch My Soul’ exudes an unmistakable New Orleans ambiance while breathing new life into Neville’s singular sound. It’s both a love letter to the Crescent City and a celebration of Neville’s emotional and spiritual journey as an artist, a father, and a man. The album’s lead single, the joyful New Orleans tribute “The Greatest Place On Earth,” is an authentic slice of street corner soul; a deliriously Mardi Gras-styled salute packed with incisive rhythms, booting horn parts, and vocal fireworks.
“I haven’t written any new material for myself in a long time,” Ivan explains, “so this project is very special to me. I made it up as I went along, a song here and there, in between my work with Dumpsta and my work with good musical friends.”
As a standard bearer for the musical culture of New Orleans, Ivan takes his anointing as seriously as the swamp water that courses through his veins. From the ferocious funk he makes with his bandmates in the dynamic Dumpstaphunk to his high-profile gigs with Keith Richards and Bonnie Raitt, he embodies the irrepressible spirit of New Orleans, holding the keys to the Crescent City at his fingertips. He can summon the barrelhouse mambo of Professor Longhair and the spidery intricacies of James Booker; he can play spooky, atmospheric chords like Dr. John; he can riff like Sly Stone with catchy, melodic chord progressions; or he can throw intense, impulsive jabs when he jams with his brothers in Dumpstaphunk.
“Music is a way to make people feel better, it brings spiritual healing,” he says. “I take my job very seriously.”
Consider that Ivan’s blood line runs through two of the most influential groups that New Orleans has produced, and that he has played with them both. His uncle Art Neville was the vocalist and keyboardist with the Meters, who epitomized New Orleans funk and are among modern music’s most sampled groups. Art also founded the Neville Brothers with Ivan’s uncles Charles and Cyril, and his father, the great balladeer and stylist Aaron Neville. The Nevilles’ musical range not only spanned generations but also idioms like carnival rhythms, pop, soul, R&B, and jazz; their collective identity galvanized Black New Orleans's cultural life to create a musical identity that focused their individual gifts with grace and grit.
Ivan is even more humble about his stature at the highest echelon of modern music. He has performed and recorded with the Rolling Stones, Bonnie Raitt, Don Henley, Robbie Robertson, Ani DeFranco and the Spin Doctors, among many others. He’s a charter member of Keith Richards’ X-Pensive Winos. He’s a founding member of the New Orleans Social Club and the group Neville Jacobs, in partnership with the songwriter Chris Jacobs. And he plays a vital role in preserving New Orleans’s musical culture. When Dumpstaphunk joined Trombone Shorty’s national Threauxdown Tour last year, he saw how audiences were affected by the otherworldly magic of a sound that could only come from New Orleans.
The writing of ‘Touch My Soul’ began with another epiphany. “When I was growing up,” Ivan says, “people interacted differently on the street. They acknowledged each other. There was a feeling of connection. Just a nod or a look that said, ‘Where y’at?’” That sense of community-mindedness extends throughout an album that’s alive with the pulse of the Crescent City. Ivan constructed ‘Touch My Soul’ around piano pieces that he composed in the pictured- filled “sun room” in his house in Uptown New Orleans. “The drum loops were inspired by the sounds I heard on Sly Stone’s Fresh album,” he says, “which was a big influence on me as a teen.”
The vocals on his previous albums have always been tart and sweet. But his voice comes from a more evolved different spiritual place on ‘Touch My Soul.’ “People try to warn us about the risks in life, but we want to learn for ourselves,” he says. “And we have a choice whether we want to learn from our mistakes. I believe the more we embrace our vulnerabilities, our imperfections, our insecurities, the better we become. That’s my goal: stay teachable.”
‘Touch My Soul’ is not unlike a good bowl of chicken soup, he adds, “very soothing for the soul.” Which is what Ivan strives to bring to the world as an artist and a fellow traveler. “When I think about the way music has touched my soul and all the songs that became special moments in my life, I become very emotional. Music should touch your soul. I hope this record and this music touches someone’s soul.”
Stay tuned for continued updates.
‘Touch My Soul’ by Ivan Neville
1. Hey All Together (feat. Aaron Neville, Bonnie Raitt, Michael McDonald, Trombone Shorty, Dave Shaw
2. Greatest Place On Earth (feat. Trombone Shorty, Ben Jaffe, Charlie Gabriel)
3. Might Last A Lifetime (feat. Cyril Neville)
4. Dance Music Love (Feat. Doyle Bramhall II)
5. Touch My Soul
6. Stand For Something
8. This Must Be The Place
9. Pass It All Around
10. Beautiful Tears (Thoughts & Prayers)