Clarence ‘The Bluesman’ Turner – The Caster Blaster | Album Review

clarenceturnercdClarence ‘The Bluesman’ Turner – The Caster Blaster

Self-Release – 2015

11 tracks; 51 minutes

Clarence Turner is a mainstay of the Washington DC blues scene and this is his second release. Clarence wrote eight of the songs, plays guitar and sings.  The rest of the band is Sean Graves on drums, David Satterwhite on bass, Charles Pearson on keyboards, Gene Meros on sax and Gary Hendrickson on trumpet and horn arrangements.  Clarence, Gene and Gary produced the album.

Four of the songs here are reprised from Clarence’s first release.  Two of those tunes bookend the CD and share some common lyrical content: in “Fame And Fortune” Clarence asks how it is that “everywhere I go people know my name; ain’t nothing wrong with being famous but I could do with a little fortune to go with my fame”, the whole carried along on a funky rhythm with horn accents and plenty of Clarence’s guitar; set closer “Pay Day” is on similar lines as Clarence finds that his money is often spent almost as soon as he gets paid, but hopes that a hit record will change all that.  There are two other reprises: “Mojo Hand” was disappointing as it is so close to other songs of that title and sounds under-recorded, certainly compared with the two titles already discussed; the instrumental “Sabrena” is a mixed bag with solid work from the rhythm section and some great horn work but Clarence’s strident guitar tone here is not particularly pleasant.  Another instrumental “Fender Bender?” fares better with some fine piano and another stellar horn arrangement, Clarence playing some Texas style guitar to good effect though why he chose to give the tune the same name as a Jimmy Thackery instrumental is a mystery.  A similar issue occurs with “Nadine” which is not Chuck Berry’s song but shares some lyrical elements though the horn arrangement ensures that the similarity stops there.  Of the other originals “Happily Married Man” is a good song, Clarence making sure that female admirers at his shows know that he is definitely NOT available as the band sets a fast pace and the horns are again excellent, Clarence producing a fine solo too.  The album is generally upbeat and the only slower tune is “Hey Lady” which has some superb sax and trumpet playing though Clarence’s vocal is perhaps too relaxed and does not work as well in this slower context.

When selecting songs to cover it is often dangerous to pick tunes as well-known as the three chosen here.  However, the approach to “C.C. Rider” is very different and works brilliantly, making it one of the strongest cuts here.  Gary’s trumpet leads the way on a bright and enjoyable arrangement, the horns are outstanding throughout and Clarence’s riff follows their lead.  It is also one of Clarence’s best vocals on the album, making it an all-round winner.  Ray Charles’ “Blackjack” has some heavy guitar set against baying horns though the sung verses are played fairly straight.  Willie Dixon’s “I’m Ready” is similar but the main riff played by the horns propels the familiar song and Clarence again sings this one well.

Overall something of a mixed bag but there are definitely some solid tracks here that are of interest and the horns throughout are great.

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