It seems like it was just the other day when I was reviewing Benny Turner’s album Journey, and in actuality it was. No, Turner doesn’t turn out albums every week, it was just that I received the last album a little late, and the newest one, WHEN SHE’S GONE, a little early.
It’s one I’ve been waiting for – I really enjoyed Journey a lot and wanted to hear a little more from Turner. I found his bass lines to be smooth and his vocals warm so my anticipation was running a little high. I’ve learned to guard that anticipation, as sometimes things don’t go according to plan.
Thank goodness I can report that Turner has lived up to all my expectations and then some. This ten song disc contains seven original songs from Turner, plus selections written by Bill Withers, Lowell Fulson, and Jessie Mae Robinson. He has assembled a strong backing band including Derwin “Big D” Perkins and Mark Stone on guitar; Samuel “The Bishop” Berfect, Keiko Komaki, and Josh Paxton on keyboards; Alonzo Johnson and Turner himself on bass; Jeffrey “Jellybean” Alexander, Herman Ernest, and Larry Williams on drums; Davell Crawford on organ and Fender Rhodes; Marc Adams on clavinet; Sean Lewis on harp; Jason Mingledorff on sax; Barney Floyd on trumpet; and Marva Wright, Diane Lotny, Yvonne Washington, Tanya Jarvis, Davell Crawford, Craig Adams, Carla Davis, Yvette Whittler, and Charles “Chucky C” Elam providing backup vocals.
The album also has more than a few surprises including special guests Bob Margolin and a rare appearance of Dr. John playing guitar and what is believed to be the last recordings of the late great Charles Brown on piano.
These were recordings that were thought to be lost in Katrina’s aftermath that have been discovered and cleaned and are an important part of Brown’s legacy. We are very lucky to have them as part of this album.
I Can’t Leave starts off the album with a little gospel fervor crossed with soulful blues. You can tell immediately that you are in assured hands as Turner tells the story of a man who wants to leave, but just can’t find the strength.
Turner gets a little funky with Pity On This Lovesick Fool, with what sounds a little like the Philadelphia soul sound but with a slightly different edge. Turner’s vocals are sharp and Marva Wright matches him note for note.
He slows things down with Because Of You, exposing his more tender side. Berfect’s keys work well and Dr. John adds a little guitar to the song. This one reminds me a little of a Johnny Adams number with its deep soulful longings. A beautiful song.
Turner follows up with the Bill Withers classic, Ain’t No Sunshine while still putting his own stamp on the song. Turner’s voice is so well controlled and mixes perfectly with Margolin’s guitar and Komaki’s keys.
Turner continues his mellow approach with So Deep, a southern flavored gospel tinged number. He builds on a wall of backup vocalists who provide a very effective choir for him to bounce his vocals off. His voice reaches deep in order to wring out every emotion.
He puts a little more funk in the bassline of If I Can’t Have You. But it’s a funky slow number, the kind that makes you want to get your lover close – either on the dance floor or someplace more intimate – and just hold each other. All night long. Turner’s voice is at its most seductive on this number, so be careful when you turn the volume up; you just never know what unsuspecting people you are affecting.
You can feel the heartache in Turner’s voice in Have You Ever Been So Lonesome. This is a powerful song of loving and loss and can make a statue weep real tears. I can’t wait to play this number on Time For The Blues.
Margolin’s guitar gives Reconsider Baby more than a little punch. Plus, the double keyboards of Paxton and Komaki gives the song more depth.
By this point, Turner has gone through all of the darker emotions and arrived at acceptance with That’s Alright – I’ll Get Over You. He’s worked through the pain and is now wondering who is loving his woman tonight. It’s a rough stage, but the beginning of healing – or ammunition for the blues.
The album wraps up with Back Night, a stormy beginning that slides into some extended keyboard work by Charles Brown adding to the poignancy of the song. This is a dark album of the blues – Turner is obviously working through some of the great losses and tragedies in his life. It’s a tribute to everything he has gone through to be able to create such remarkable art as a result.
If you require further proof how good this album is, I invite you to come out to the Capital Ale House Downtown on February 13 to see Turner live at his CD release party. He will be joined by the one and only Bob Margolin along with The Nighthawks. If you get there early in the evening (and why wouldn’t you, you don’t want to miss a note of this throwdown) you might just see yours truly The Professor emceeing the show.
It will be a great time and I hope to see you all there. You can find out more details at Turner’s website: http://www.bennyturner.com/ or at the River City Blues Society website: http://www.rivercityblues.org.
(Picture of When She's Gone borrowed from the artist's website. If you are the copyright holder and want it to be removed, please contact us and we will comply.)