Sunday, December 27, 2015

Enjoy Benny Turner's Journey

We’re nearing the end of 2015 and heading into another year we all hope will be the greatest one yet. Of course we had the same hopes for this year, and, well, let’s just say we faced some pretty tough challenges. With a presidential race heating up and breaking down, let’s just keep our fingers crossed and see if we can get our mojo working to make the world a little better off than it was before.
While I’m writing this, it’s a quiet Sunday morning around the Professor’s place. Mrs. Professor did a yeoman’s job over the holidays and is taking a well-deserved rest. Her mother, the 93-year old affectionately known as “Grammy Blues,” is also asleep. I’m just taking five from house chores to listen to some good music – and think about things to come.
As you may know, I receive a lot of CDs through the mail. Not as many as I would like, so please – artists, publicists, record labels, and fans in general – please keep ‘em coming. If you’re not sure how to send them to me, the mailing address is WCVE-FM 23 Sesame Street Richmond, VA 23235 ATTN: Time For The Blues / John Porter.
If you have any other questions, email me or check out our FAQs HERE…
Today’s CD is one of those great independent records that showed up pretty much out of the blue, and I am so glad it did. Benny Turner, whose 2014 NOLA Blues release JOURNEY was unfairly buried on my desk for a while, is one of the finest example of soulful blues that I have heard in a long time.
The ten songs on JOURNEY were all penned by Turner and he is joined by some fine musicians including Charles Moore and Derwin “Big D” Perkins on rhythm guitar; Keiko Komaki, Josh Paxton, and Tom Worrell on keyboards; Jason Minglehoff on sax; Barney Floyd on trumpet; Jeffrey “Jellybean” Alexander on drums, and the harp stylings of Bruce “Sunpie” Barnes and Patrick Williams.
While I was admittedly not terribly familiar with Turner and Company as their own act, I did know him as Freddie King’s brother and a sideman to many of the legends of blues. I quickly found out that in 2010 he began to carve out his own niche and now I have become an ardent fan and will be faithfully looking at his tour dates to see when I can catch them live.
Breaking News starts the album off with a little steel guitar provided by Marc Stone. Coupled with the lively horn section and Turner’s strong vocals augmented by Deanna Bernard and Ellen Smith, it’s the kind of song that sets up the rest of the CD as a fun journey.  
With a title like Don’t You Ride My Mule, you know Turner knows his stuff. It’s got a little West Coast feel but quickly slides into more of a gospel based Chicago sound. Paxton’s keys get a workout and the song has a solid old-school feel to it. Barnes turns in a very tasty harp run.
Turner slows things down for How I Wish. Here is where his voice really takes a star turn. He has one of the most soulful voices and is in total command of his instrument here. There is a real power to his silky smooth vocals and they play beautifully against the keyboards and horn section. It’s a great song.
I Wanna Make It Right takes the tempo up ever so slightly. Turner’s vocals get another workout as he works in more of a breathy torch style. He can make anyone sit and listen to him with no trouble at all. The combination of these two songs is very strong and by this point I am totally hooked on the album.
Next up is a fun little instrumental, My Mother’s Blues, which features a lively kazoo played by Turner. It sounds like the kind of fun one can have just jamming with friends and not taking yourself too seriously.
Now that we’ve had a little swing intermission with the previous song, it’s time to up the tempo some more with I Wanna Give It To You Baby. Let’s just cut to the chase with the lyrics and express just what it is the singer wants to do, baby…
Turner slows things down again with Worn Out Woman, an appreciative look at what so many women do on a daily basis. Any person that doesn’t acknowledge the incredible amount of work that their support person does for them (female OR male) doesn’t have a clue. This is another great song and Turner’s vocals are in top form.
He starts to increase the tempo a little with My Uncle’s Blues (Fannie Mae). He loves to play against the harp and keys with a fun number.
We’re back in slow territory with Voodoo Lady. He takes some of the standard imagery from earlier songs and stands them on their head. The lyrics are clever and the song pulls you in. Turner has a lot of fun with this number and I would love to see him do it live – it’s got to be a killer.
The album finishes up with What’s Wrong With The World Today. It’s a controlled number that asks some of those age old questions that no one has ever been able to answer.
It’s a very satisfying album that would easily have made my favorites list for 2015 and now that I’ve learned that he’s working on a new CD that’s scheduled to release in 2016, I’ll be eagerly awaiting that one and will pounce on it as soon as it arrives.
In the meantime, be sure to visit for more information and tell ‘em The Professor sent you.
See you in a few days.
Deep peace from Jordan’s Branch and our sincere wishes for a great new year.

(Photo of Benny Turner stolen from his website. If you are the copyright owner and want me to take it down, notify me and I will do so. But I won't like it. No sir, not one bit...)

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