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CD Review -- Benny Turner & Cash McCall
GLT blues radio

Benny Turner and Cash McCall


Going Back Home


NOLA Blue Records


10 tracks/35:27


Benny Turner & Cash McCall CD


By Mark Thompson


          This disc reminds us once again that age is nothing but a number. Right from the start, Benny Turner and Cash McCall dig into a program steeped in blues standards, with plenty of musical firepower backing them on tracks recorded in Memphis, New Orleans, and Chicago. The opener, “Got To Find A Way,” is bursting with energy as Turner's smooth vocal pairs nicely with a sassy turn from Carla Davis, one of the Turner Sisters along with Benita Turner and Yvette Whittler. They are Turner's daughters, joining their voices together for the first time on a recording session. McCall plays rhythm guitar, just as he did on Harold Burrage's 1965 hit rendition of the song. Drummer Terry Saffold and Turner on bass establish a pulsating rhythm, while Butch Mudbone on rhythm guitar, Raishene Webb on keyboards, Jason Mingledorff on saxophone, and Barney Floyd on trumpet add plenty of sonic textures.


          Next up is McCall, taking the lead on “Spoonful,” his gritty performance masking the fact that he was undergoing treatments for stage four lung cancer during the sessions. One of the finest keyboard players from New Orleans, Joe Krown, is featured on piano, along with Johnny Sansone blowing some fine harp accompaniment. And so it goes throughout the disc, the two veterans switching off on vocals without letting the music falter or losing the good-time feel that reverberated in the studios as two old friends revisited songs from their shared history.


In recent years, Turner has experienced a major resurgence in his career. The bass player was a key member in the band that backed his brother, Freddie King, until the guitarist's untimely passing. Later, he added bass lines for Chicago’s Mighty Joe Young, then moved to New Orleans and became the band leader for the noted singer Marva Wright, who has since passed away. With three critically acclaimed albums and an award-winning biography, Survivor: The Benny Turner Story, co-written by Bill Dahl, Turner has successfully transitioned from being a perennial sideman to being a thoroughly engaging front man.


          His urgent delivery on “Shake Your Money Maker” injects plenty of life into the oft-covered Elmore James standard, sparked by Brentt Arcement's sturdy shuffle beat and Mudbone's cutting slide guitar licks. Krown and Sansone are back on “It's A Man Down There,” with Jack Miele playing rhythm guitar. Krown doubles on organ and piano, with his mesmerizing fills behind Turner's vocals being one of the highlights of the project. Willie Mabon's hit, “Poison Ivy,” glides along with a smooth groove, Turner's easy-going voice a fine match. He unveils a tougher tone on “Built For Comfort,” with Sansone getting a chance to stretch out while Krown once again keeps things interesting on the piano.


          Like his long-time friend Benny, McCall (Morris Dollison, Jr.) started out singing and playing in Chicago gospel groups. In fact, the liner notes share a story about the guitarist going to an audition for a Chicago-based group, the Kindly Shepherds, for a spot held by Turner, who was leaving to join his brother's band. McCall's career got a boost from his “When You Wake Up” single,that found a place on the R&B charts in 1965. The guitarist continued recording under his name for a variety of labels in addition to session work for the Chess and One-derful labels. He also toured as a member of Minnie Riperton's band, later becoming one of the All-Stars, the band that backed Willie Dixon, and served as co-producer on Dixon's Grammy Award-winning Hidden Charms record.


          Given his health issues, McCall brings an extra dimension of emotion to the classic, “It Hurts Me Too”. Mudbone's slithering slide work and Turner's uplifting backing vocal add a touch of inspiration, with guest Billy Branch completing the picture with some beautifully crafted harp playing. “Money” is a song McCall wrote, the only original on the project. It has a lighter, swinging tempo as McCall sets his guitar down in order to concentrate on a spoken treatise on the power and allure of the mighty dollar. Turner handles the bass and guitar parts on “The Dirty Dozens,” with Krown once again delighting with some rousing piano while guest Rodd Bland, son of Bobby Blue Bland, makes his lone appearance on drums. McCall's slightly bawdy rendition makes it clear that the veteran still has some fire in the tank.


          The final cut, “Bring It On Home,” features Branch on harp and lead vocal with the two leaders sticking to bass and guitar, accompanied by Mudbone, Krown, and Saffold. The closing segment finds the principals having a delightful discussion about Chicago blues clubs, cuisine, and a shout-out to Howlin' Wolf. It is a fitting finishing touch for a project that unites two musicians whose paths first crossed over 60 years ago, and now finally were able to celebrate together the music that has sustained them over those decades. Benny Turner and Cash McCall show us how it's done. It may not be new, or anything revolutionary, but there will always be a place for music that feels right.

For info or to buy the CD:

About the Author: Mark Thompson lives in Bradenton, Florida, where he served as president of the Suncoast Blues Society. A former Chicago area native, he also headed Rockford/Byron's Crossroads Blues Society. Thompson writes for many blues publications and recently served 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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