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Aaron Neville Returns to His Roots with Soul Classics

In a career that spans more than 40 years as a soloist and a member of the Neville Brothers band, singer Aaron Neville has made his mark in just about every style of music from gospel and R&B to rock, pop and country. But, as VOA's Doug Levine tells us, it was soul music, his first love, that took him back to his roots on his latest album, "Bring It On Home … The Soul Classics."

Aaron Neville's unmistakable vibrato has turned countless numbers of songs into hits, but his voice has never sounded more at home than when he's singing classic soul.

Neville calls his new album a tribute to his "teachers," soul legends like Bill Withers, Sam Cooke, Otis Redding and Marvin Gaye whose music has helped him through good times and bad.

Many of the greats are long gone, which made his visit with an ailing Curtis Mayfield in the hospital bittersweet.

"I was sitting by his bedside and it was a mutual thing," Neville said. "He was a fan of mine and I didn't know it, and I was telling him that he was one of my heroes. His voice was like medicine to me. I'd ask him about different songs because I used to sing all of his stuff."

From The Impressions' "It's Alright" to The Temptations' "My Girl," Neville makes a personal connection with each song; like the memory of hearing "Rainy Night In Georgia" for the first time one rainy night in Louisiana.

"We were playing at this club, and me and my bass player were going across the river in New Orleans," he said. "It was pouring down [rain] and you couldn't see, and you had to drive five miles [approximately 10 km - very slowly] per hour. And that song came on the radio and blasted [amazed] both of us, and we both went, 'Wow, we've got to do that tonight!'"

Like so many in New Orleans, Aaron Neville lost his home to Hurricane Katrina. Despite personal setbacks, Aaron Neville says recording the album renewed his spirit.

"It was right after the storm, right after Katrina, and it had a couple of different meanings," he said. "I was thinking about the people in New Orleans, and my wife was suffering with cancer, so that brought a couple of tears while I was in the booth singing it."

Aaron Neville now lives in Nashville, and returns to New Orleans only to perform. He says the city no longer bears resemblance to the city where he was born and raised. Nevertheless, he continues to provide relief and support to those still living there.