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CD REVIEW -- Benny Turner
GLT blues radio

Benny Turner

 

When She's Gone

 

Nola Blue Inc.

 

10 tracks/49:36

 

Benny Turner CD art

by Mark Thompson


          It can be tough to carve out a career in an industry, even harder when one of your older siblings is an acknowledged legend in the same field. While you reap the benefit of the name association, you also may be expected to live up to higher standards of your sibling, creating an unfair comparison especially if you want to make your own way.

 

          Benny Turner started out playing bass for his brother, famed guitarist Freddie King, in Chicago clubs. He had learned guitar from his mother, Ella Mae Turner, as a child in Texas, eventually joining the Kindly Shepherds, a gospel group that record for Nashboro Records. His skills as a bass player gave Turner the opportunity to tour major theaters with the hit vocalist Dee Clark, followed by a return to the gospel world as a member of the Soul Stirrers. Turner finally returned to backing his brother until Freddie's untimely passing in 1976.

 

          After several years of mourning, guitarist Mighty Joe Young managed to coax Turner into joining his band, forming a partnership that lasted until health issues limited Young's ability to play. Leaving Chicago behind, Turner eventually made his way to New Orleans. He quickly connected with one of the city's finest blues singers, Marva Wright. He spent more than twenty years as her band leader until Wright passed away in 2010. Since then, the multi-talented musician has stepped out front to lead his own band, based in the Big Easy.

 

          For the fourth release under his own name, Turner has packaged together six tracks from his initial release which was a guitar-less tribute to his brother sold only at live shows, Blue And Not So Blue, plus covers of four classic blues songs. The core of his backing band consists of Samuel “The Bishop” Berfect on keyboards and Jeffrey “Jellybean” Alexander on drums. Alonzo Johnson plays bass on four tracks with Turner handling those duties on the remaining cuts. Special guests include living (Dr. John, Bob Margolin) and late (Marva Wright, Charles Brown) blues greats.

 

          The opening number, “I Can't Leave,” sports a lively, organ-drenched arrangement that is slightly at odds with Turner's tale of evil going on with his woman, his smooth vocal giving way to anguished cries at the end. Another resurrected track, “Pity On This Lovesick Fool,” offers a potent vocal duet with Marva Wright, her powerful tones making the funky tune a highlight. Additional keyboards come from Davell Crawford on organ and Fender Rhodes plus Marc Adams on the clavinet. The ballad “Because of You” features another strong vocal from Turner with a special appearances by Dr. John on guitar and Herman Ernest III on drums.

 

          The other three originals are in a similar vein. “So Deep” opens with Turner laying down a bass solo before professing his undying love, accompanied by the legendary Charles Brown on piano and Larry Williams on drums. Berfect plays a variety of keyboards that echo Turner's lovesickness on “If I Can't Have You,” with Sean Lewis blowing some mournful harp licks. The hurt continues on “Have You Ever Been Lonesome,” a slow blues with Turner lifting up a searing description of heartache and emotional torment.

 

          Some listeners may wonder if the world needs another cover of Bill Withers’ “Ain't No Sunshine”. Turner's version benefits from some eerie slide guitar licks courtesy of Bob Margolin. The noted guitar player sticks around to deliver a memorable solo on the Lowell Fulson classic, “Reconsider Baby”. Turner demonstrates his skills as a lead guitarist on “That”s Alright – I'll Get Over You,” doubling on bass to set-up a sturdy shuffle with Alexander on drums. Brown returns on piano for one of his monster hits, “Black Night,” on which Turner is once again a man tortured by loneliness. The overall mood is driven home by blasts from the horn section comprised of Jason Mingledorff on saxophone and Barney Floyd on trumpet. The never-before-released collaboration with Brown had been stored in a studio facility and was rescued before Hurricane Katrina hit.

 

          Throughout the disc Benny Turner gets listeners to feel the pain and sorrow of loss, as only a true bluesman can. Along with his well-received previous release, Journey, Turner leaves no doubt that he deserves attention as a top-notch singer, musician, songwriter, and band leader. When She’s Gone is real blues album that deserves a listen.

For info or to buy the CD: www.bennyturner.com

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