Jesus called a tax collector—a stooge of the oppressive Roman Empire—and a revolutionary insurrectionist to be among his twelve closest companions. So perhaps it shouldn't be a big surprise to hear the unexpected musical collaboration between Keith Richards and Aaron Neville. But it is.

Richards, rock'n'roll's resident bad boy, is known as much for his debauchery and self-destructive lifestyle as he is for his indelible guitar riffs with The Rolling Stones. Neville, whose distinguished soul and R&B career now stretches back 50 years, is coming off a stellar gospel album, 2010's I Know I've Been Changed. Neville's new My True Story,which releases today, pairs this most unlikely of musical odd couples.

And, only slightly less surprisingly, it sounds fantastic. Neville's angelic tenor soars above a dozen doo-wop and early rock classics. Richards's stinging guitar adds needed grit and ballast to what could have been an ethereal session. The resulting album is a near-perfect merger of sonic beauty and power. Go figure.

So I did, or at least I tried. What is it about these unexpected musical collaborations that is so satisfying when they work? Part of the reason, I'm sure, is the simple delight in experiencing seemingly incongruous sounds that no one ever expected to hear together. But I also suspect that Jesus may have been onto something. Different—sometimes very different—personalities and backgrounds create a synergy that is greater than the sum of the parts. And when those wildly different personalities, styles, and musical genres collide and spark, sometimes something magical happens.

Of course, it probably goes without saying that many oddball ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.