I owe Aaron Neville an apology.
I have thought of him as a somewhat schmaltzy singer, largely because of the 1989 hit he had with Linda Ronstadt, "Don't Know Much." That song struck me back then as being pretty but lacking soul.
On Saturday night in Victoria, however, Neville reminded me why the Neville Brothers put on one of the most magical concerts I have ever attended when they headlined the American Music Festival in Winter Park, Colo., in about 1992. The funk and fun filled the mountain air as Paula and I locked arms with strangers and swayed to the music.
That feeling washed over me again Saturday in the Victoria Fine Arts Center as Neville sang "Everybody Plays the Fool," a cover he hit the charts with in 1991. Neville and his jazzy quintet made every song their own, even though most were recorded previously by other artists.
Although I am biased toward singer-songwriters, some music is timeless and deserves to be reinterpreted by talented artists like Neville and Craig Hella Johnson's Conspirare, which also performed last week in Victoria. Conspirare is a choral group that defies description. If you're part of the rock 'n' roll generation like me, you might turn your nose up at anything called "choral."
If you do, though, you'll be missing some amazing voices arranged by Johnson in a heavenly way. Victoria is incredibly fortunate that Johnson, the 2013 Texas State Musician, has served as the artistic director of the Victoria Bach Festival since 1992. If you haven't heard Conspirare in the past 20 years, you must attend the upcoming Christmas performance. Believe me when I say you'll thank me for going. (Disclaimer: Paula is president this year of the Bach festival.)
When Conspirare sang last week, "I've got peace like a river in my soul," I felt my mind and spirit relax. The feeling washed over me again two days later when Neville sang an old Dobie Gray song:
"Oh, give me the beat, boys, and free my soul
I wanna get lost in your rock and roll and drift away"
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