Angola Bound

The Neville Brothers have toiled long and hard to win freedom from prisons of the body and mind.

"Yeah, that dude needed to be in," Charles laughs in a phone interview from his home in Connecticut.

But there is a long roll call of music greats who have left Angola and distinguished themselves in New Orleans and beyond. Drummer Frank Black and pianist James Booker are ex-Angolites who are now remembered as two of the finest musicians in Crescent City history. Leadbelly came and, so the story goes, went after his song moved the governor to pardon him. Dr. John passed through, as did unique stream-of-consciousness country bluesman Robert Pete Williams. On November 17 this year the Nevilles will attend a music symposium at the prison to discuss its rich history.

It won't be the first time the brothers have revisited Angola since Charles's 1967 release. Aaron Neville, who runs a youth community center in uptown New Orleans, has taken at-risk teenagers there on several "Scared Straight" trips, one of which he recalls as one of the most heartbreaking days of his life. "One time I was up there and this kid came up to me and said, 'Mr. Neville, do you remember me?' I said no. He says, 'You brought me up here a while back. I guess I didn't pay attention, 'cause they gave me 50 years.' "

From left: Aaron, Art, Charles and Cyril. The devout, the elder, the mystic and the firebrand.
From left: Aaron, Art, Charles and Cyril. The devout, the elder, the mystic and the firebrand.


Saturday, October 13. For more information, call 713-629-3700.
Sienna Plantation Amphitheatre, south of U.S. Highway 59 at Highway 6 and Sienna Parkway, 2.5 miles east of 1092/Murphy Road.

Perhaps music can keep that kid going as it did Charles. Perhaps it will help him to become a better man, one that can live free and be productive. After all, it worked for the Neville brothers.

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