King ‘B’ Records
CD: 10 Songs, 49:34 Minutes
Styles: Jazz-Influenced Blues, Soul-Influenced Blues
A commercial for juicy jelly proclaims: “With a name like Smucker’s, it has to be good.” As soon as yours truly saw the album cover of Blue and Not So Blue, she proclaimed, “With a name like Benny Turner’s, it has to be good!” He’s no ordinary Mr. Turner, but the brother of the dearly departed Freddie King. How on Earth could he go wrong when it comes to playing the blues? Granted, his overall style is jazz-and-soul-influenced blues, but those who know his magnificent music won’t be surprised. Turner’s ambiance is fit for a nightclub, not a roadhouse. (Note: It’s almost impossible to balance such a yin and yang, to create songs suitable for both venues, but our hero skirts the razor’s edge of that curved line.) The best selections feature piano as smooth and satisfying as Dove’s dark chocolate, and Benny’s singing? Mmm-mmm!
The album’s liner notes express the wisdom of what mentors such as Willie Dixon and Muddy Waters conveyed to Benny: “If you want to make a name for yourself, you have to be different, and you won’t be able to please everyone, so be loyal to your own style of music and play your ass off for the people that you do please.” Over and over, Turner has done just that, becoming a “triple threat performer.” He’s one of the rare masters of the blues who’s achieved perfection in the trifecta of vocals, instrumentation and lyrics. Each of the ten songs here is a polished gem.
Along with Benny, who performs on lead vocals and bass, are the renowned Dr. John on piano and rhythm guitar (!) for track three; Samuel “The Bishop” Berfect on organ; Anthony “A.B.” Brown on banjo; Anthony “Tuba Fats” Lacen on tuba; Jeffrey “Jellybean” Alexander on drums; Corey Henry on trombone; Dianne Lotny, Lanya Jarvis, Davell Crawford, Craig Adams, Carla Gayton, Yvette Whittler, Charles “Chuckie” Elam, Marva Wright, and Yvonne Washington on background vocals; Rachel Van Voorhees on string harp; Alonzo Johnson on bass; Herman Ernest III on drums; Charles Brown on second piano; Larry Williams on drums; Sean Lewis on harmonica, and Mark Adams on clavinet (no, that’s not a typo).
The following three tunes are the bluest of this CD, whether they sound traditional or not.
Track 01: “GI Homesick Blues” – Who knew a tuba could be one of the greatest instruments in a blues song? Anthony “Tuba Fats” Lacen proves it in this original hit by Benny Turner. Reminiscent of a ragtime number from the early 1900s, this one’s an ode to the ordinary things a deployed soldier yearns for: “I miss that home cooking and that woman of mine. Sweet potato pie – good loving all the time. You know I miss my old hound dog and the walks we took on the beautiful hillside, like in the picture books.” Also listen closely for Anthony “A.B.” Brown’s bold banjo.
Track 09: “Going Home Tomorrow” – Prison, in a word, sucks. However, thanks to the marvel of “something called DNA,” the protagonist of this song is being released after a twelve-year stint. The officials in the slammer? All they can do is shrug and say, “We knew you wasn’t guilty, Lord, but somebody had to pay.” Too bad it wasn’t the real wrongdoer, eh? What’s oh-so-good is Samuel “The Bishop” Berfect’s organ combined with Mark Adams’ understated piano. Another original offering from Turner, this should be played on radio stations worldwide.
Track 10: “She Call Me King Bee” – Terrific number ten, also a fresh composition, is a slow burner with the smoldering refrain of “Fire, burns all night long. Fire, keep your baby warm” What raises it from fine to fabulous is the harmony provided by Dianne Lotny and Yvonne Washington to Turner’s lead. Also savor Sean Lewis’ harmonica solo, which will be as warm as glowing coals in listeners’ ears.
Benny Turner, whether Blue or Not So Blue, is the king of class and contemporary classics!