Sunday, February 14, 2016

Benny Turner and Friends Bring CD Release Party To Richmond

Sometimes a cold night can bring out the hottest show. Long time concert goers in Richmond know that every once in a while we get a reputation for not being the hardiest of souls. When it snows, people laugh at us because we can’t drive. Hell, sometimes when it rains, they level the same charge at us.

And when it’s cold outside, no one shows up to see a show.

Don’t tell that to the sold-out crowd that packed their way into downtown’s Capital Ale House to catch the CD release party for Benny Turner that also featured legendary guitarist Bob Margolin, and that indestructible force of nature known as The Nighthawks.

Separately, each of these artists were worthy of a trip out on a cold night, but together it would have taken an act of God to keep me away.

Benny Turner is one of those nice, quiet guys that’s been around the industry for years. Aside from being Freddie King’s younger brother (he played bass for King for years), he established himself as a sideman and band leader for Marva Wright as well as many other blues, soul, and gospel groups.

It has only been recently that Turner has let the spotlight shine on him (as was in evidence last night as he encouraged the other artists to take extended trips to the front while he was content to just play bass for them.

Benny Turner is a class act.

The show kicked off with a set from the DC based Nighthawks and they proceeded to take the opportunity to get the crowd into the show. The four-person juggernaut is comprised of Mark Wenner, Paul Bell, Johnny Castle, and Mark Stutso. The Nighthawks have a long and storied career in their own right and have even recently had their history featured in a new full length documentary.

After their set, the audience was primed and ready for the main event, and after a very short wait were rewarded by the return of the group and the addition of Bob Margolin and the man of the hour, Benny Turner himself.

From the first couple of bars, this Richmond audience was cheering (something many Richmond audiences don’t do) as the room was completely under Turner’s spell.

Turner blazed through a couple of songs from the new CD, When She’s Gone (previously reviewed here) and then launched into a version of Hideaway which was made famous by his older brother. I can honestly say that I don’t think I’ve ever heard a finer version of the song, including the original, than I did last night. Big Brother Freddie must have been throwing in some extra help from the afterlife because this was a divine interpretation.

From that point on, Turner could do no wrong as he played his heart out, sang, and even walked out into the audience singing (without a microphone) and playing bass at several tables and even on the dance floor.

He continued the pace for the next hour or so, with some of the most soulful sounds you can imagine. His take on Bill Withers’ Ain’t No Sunshine was a showstopper with Margolin’s guitar blistering the song and giving it an indelible stamp.

Let me pause to ask a simple question. Why is Benny Turner not headlining major festivals across the world?

Turner is not just an excellent musician, he’s not just an amazing singer, he is a flat out entertainer who knows how to work a crowd and give them a performance that they will never forget.

If you ever get a chance to catch this man, do not miss the opportunity. He will have you enthralled with the magic of his performance. But until you can catch him live, make sure you pick up his CDs and enjoy those.

Thank you for a great evening Benny, and hopefully we’ll catch you back here soon.

(All photos taken at the show and were deliberately out of focus in order to convey the excitement of live music. So don't send me any hate mail, I get enough already!)

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