A Rockin’ Neville

There are several things you could say about Ivan Neville’s career, but the most immediately noticeable one is that it appears to be a triumph of good bloodlines over bad nutrition.

Sitting in a conference room at his Burbank record company discussing the latest entries on his long, varied resume--a new solo debut LP, as well as recording and touring with Keith Richards--Neville polishes off a lunch of barbecued potato chips, Hershey bar, Coke, popcorn and M&Ms.;

The wiry singer-songwriter is quick to acknowledge that his eating habits are suspect, but quicker to acknowledge the benefits of growing up the son and nephew of the stellar New Orleans-based Neville Brothers, with whom he played keyboards.

“If it weren’t for them, I wouldn’t be where I am,” Neville, 29, says between chips. “They gave me so much knowledge.”


At the same time, Ivan’s album, “If My Ancestors Could See Me Now,” operates as a declaration of independence from the Brothers’ slithering New Orleans R&B; in favor of modern rock ‘n’ roll--some bouncy, some racing, some hard-edged, some slow and smooth. But definitely rock.

“That’s where I’m from,” he says of his record’s gleaming, punchy sound. “I’m like the extension of the family. I mean, I can play some New Orleans stuff. That’s the reference point. But it’s got to go somewhere else, and that’s where I’m taking my branch of the tree.”

Turns out there were some Doubting Thomases who felt that by peeling off in this musical direction, he would hit a dead end. Among their concerns, according to Neville, was that his music might slip through the crack between white radio and black radio formats, resulting in minimal airplay. The fact that the first single, “Not Just Another Girl” has already cracked the Top 50--and is still climbing--pretty much shoots that theory.

A related concern of these naysayers: “Somebody asked, ‘Who said the black guy can play rock ‘n’ roll?,’ ” to which Neville replied: “Keith (Richards) said I could play rock ‘n’ roll. If Keith says I can play rock ‘n’roll, I’ll play rock ‘n’ roll.”


In fact, he’ll play it with Keith . After a couple of local shows opening for Eddie Money--Thursday at the Celebrity Theatre in Anaheim and Friday at the Wiltern Theatre--and some East Coast dates supporting Robert Cray, he’ll hit the road as keyboardist in Richards’ band, the Expensive Winos.

He’ll pull double duty some nights, opening for Richards before joining him. While another artist might seek as many opening slots as possible, this cool customer wants to use the opportunity sparingly. “I don’t want to do too many of them, make it overkill,” he says, now working on the M&Ms.; “I mean (opening) will be good for my record. But there’s going to be some nights when I want to be strictly a Wino.”