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CD REVIEW -- Benny Turner
Benny Turner Banner book & cd part 2
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My Brother's Blues


NOLA Blue Inc.

11 tracks/51:18

Benny Turner CD


By Mark Thompson

          For his third recording in three years, Benny Turner made the decision to honor his late brother, the legendary guitarist Freddie King. Turner played bass in his brother's band in Chicago and later in their Texas homeland, spending long nights on the road making music and playing poker until Freddie passed away suddenly at the end of 1976. Turner went on to play with Mighty Joe Young until health issues ended his career. Turner moved to New Orleans where he has lived since the late 1980s.


          The notes in the CD booklet provide a wealth of information about the bass player's lengthy career. (Interested fans can get more details from Turner's fascinating autobiography, Survivor: The Benny Turner Story, available at his website:


          Covering well-known, frequently played songs is a tricky business. Do you adhere to a straight cover of the tune and risk losing out to a better known version? Or do you give the tune a fresh treatment that may veer far enough from the original that listeners tune it out? Turner manages to land somewhere in the middle, a balancing act that that will surely appeal to listeners. The singer/songwriter and virtuoso bassist is accompanied by some of New Orleans’ finest players, bringing a taste of the Big Easy to his brother’s classics.


          The four pages of notes in the CD booklet, written by noted blues historian Bill Dahl, gives a comprehensive synopsis of Turner's career, as well as explaining that the first track on the disc, “Big Legged Woman,” was the standard opening number for King's live shows. Turner gives the song a bright, energetic treatment sparked by the guitar interplay between June Yamagishi and Derwin “Big D” Perkins, punctuated by hardy horn accents from Barney Floyd on trumpet and Jason Mingledorff on saxophone. Turner's popping bass lines combine with Jeffrey “Jellybean” Alexander on drums to create a funky rhythmic undertow. As King's band leader, Turner once substituted “It's Your Move” as the set opener. The horns once again fill out the arrangement behind Turner's smooth vocal, which slowly adds some grit as Joe Krown on Hammond B3 and piano with Jack Miele on guitar dig into the song's emotional core.


          Late legends Otis Clay and Marva Wright, (a mighty New Orleans singer that Turner worked with for many years), add plenty of vocal firepower to a frantic rendition of “I'm Tore Down,” with Davell Crawford on keyboards and Keiko Komaki on the organ. “You’ve Got To Love Her With A Feeling” once again highlights Turner's deep, velvety voice. He concentrates on singing for “Have You Ever Loved A Woman,” as Alonzo Johnson fills in on bass. It was a wise choice as he weaves a web of pain and heartache on the classic slow blues. Miele also merits attention for his taut guitar licks on the lengthy cut.


          The remaining six tracks will be familiar to most blues fans. Roosevelt Collier utilizes his lap steel guitar to give a storming version of “I'm Ready” a different texture. J.B. Lenoir's “Mojo Boogie” is another uptempo flag-waver with Krown supplying some dazzling piano runs as Carolyn Wonderland joins in on lead and rhythm guitar. Another highlight is the easy-rolling take of “Wee Baby Blues,” with Collier again on hand and Wonderland adding backing vocals. Mingledorff's muscular sax is featured on “See See Baby,” then Turner bares his soul one more time on “Ghetto Woman”.


The final track, “Same Old Blues,” is a Don Nix classic that King recorded on his 1974 Burglar album. Turner establishes a wistful, melancholy mood while Yamagishi channels King's trademark guitar style. Chizuko Yoshihiro makes an impression on piano while Tracy Griffin on trumpet and Greg Dawson on saxophone make their lone appearance. It is a fitting end to disc that will undoubtedly continue to raise Turner's profile in the blues community. Throughout this tribute, Turner wisely down-plays his brother's iconic guitar style in favor of an ensemble approach that keeps the focus on his compelling voice. Along with his autobiography and some strong live performances, Turner has parlayed his decades of experience into a solo career that continues to flourish at age 77, even in the shadow of his famous brother.


To buy the CD, visit:

 About the Author: Mark Thompson lives in Bradenton, Florida and serves as the president of the Suncoast Blues Society. A former Chicago area native, he also acted as the president of Rockford/Byron's Crossroads Blues Society. Thompson writes for many blues publications and serves on the Board for the Blues Foundation in Memphis, which hosts the annual Blues Music Awards and International Blues Challenge events.


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