Troy Turner
Evidence Music

Over the course of three previous albums Troy Turner has done admirable work purveying straight-ahead, rock-infused blues featuring his stinging guitar and warm, personable vocals. Unlike some blues guitar masters whose voices are only serviceable counterparts to their exciting six-string sorties, Turner sings with a whole bunch of personality and benevolent attitude. In that sense, he shares some common ground with a couple of blues masters who have exerted a strong influence on his own style, those being Buddy Guy and B.B. King (as per the latter, dig the seductive mood he rolls out on “Come To Your Senses,” and its accompanying tasty solo, rich in upper neck moans, and see if the Blues Boy doesn’t spring quickly to mind as the philosophical and musical template for this performance).

These qualities are enhanced to their max on his tough new album, Whole Lotta Blues. If there is an X factor on this outing, it’s Turner’s producer, the estimable Jon Tiven, who knows more than a little bit about the intersection of blues and rock ‘n’ roll in their most traditional forms. Some may even remember Tiven as the leader of a solid ‘70s rock band called The Yankees, or as a member of The Jim Carroll Band, or as a session player on the Stones’ “Jivin’ Sister Fanny,” or as an oft-covered songwriter, or more likely, as a top-notch producer with a wealth of impressive credits in soul (Wilson Pickett, Don Covay—with whom he had  16-year partnership—et al.), blues (Ellis Hooks, Howard Tate, Betty Harris, et al.) and rock (notably, Alex Chilton’s first solo album, Bach’s Bottom). Regardless, Tiven’s got all the tools at hand to guide an artist to higher ground, and he’s done that with Turner. Now based in Nashville, Tiven calls on musical cohorts from pretty much every genre he’s explored in his many guises. These would include surprising choices such as Queen guitarist Brian May, who wrote the abovementioned grinder, “Come To Your Senses,” on which Memphis’s Steve Cropper contributes indelible six-string sound signatures of his own; other guests may be less exotic guests than May, but have been impeccably chosen for the task at hand: on the funky, updated ‘60s-style soul workout, “Foolin’ Yourself,” Felix Cavaliere makes his presence felt with some robust organ pumping amidst the stomping proceedings, and Cropper again interjects himself into the fray with elegantly discursive guitar commentary (Cavaliere, Cropper and Tiven co-wrote the number, too), all the players boosting a frisky vocal on Turner’s part. One of the album’s real treats is a Hubert Sumlin tune written with Tiven and his wife Sally, the bumpin’, horn-infused R&B workout titled “Fired On A Thursday,” a subtle bit of class-conscious reporting from the working man’s trenches, which Turner eats up with a wry, bemused vocal articulating his travails on the job (which involve some fiddlin’ around with the boss’s daughter) and further enhances on guitar with soaring, stinging filigrees and sharp, stabbing lines as the horns pump away behind him. But Tiven and Turner really kick out the jams on Don Nix’s swampy, roaring gospel-soul burner, “Goin’ Down,” a fiery maelstrom of searing vocal testifying by a growling Turner shadowed by a rapturously soulful Bonnie Bramlett, which is but prelude to a roiling, churning, white-hot instrumental howl, the product of the awesome guitar pairing of Brian May, Leslie West and Audrey Freed, in a deep, rich soundscape further energized by Max Middleton’s juke joint piano and Bobby Whitlock’s rollicking organ, all buttressed by a powerhouse rhythm section comprised of Muscle Shoals legend David Hood on bass and Martin Ditcham on drums. From classically B.B.-style blues laments “Never Too Big For the Blues” and “Don’t Push Your Luck” (which even nods it head to B.B.’s “Sweet Sixteen” in its opening lyric, “When I first met you, baby, you were my lucky charm…”) to hard charging blues-rock on the order of “Out On the Streets” (a song about a fellow who’s down on his luck in every way, and at that a tale all too relevant in the land of 10 percent unemployment and the sundry travails attending that unsettling fact) to the appropriately driving—and dryly humorous—blues signing off the festivities, “Brand New Cadillac” (not the 1958 Vince Taylor scorcher that the Clash covered on London Calling, but another Hubert Sumlin-Jon/Sally Tiven copyright), Troy Turner delivers, again and again; more to the point, on an album with some exceedingly accomplished guests sitting in, he’s always the news—and Troy Turner in command is something to experience.—David McGee

Troy Turner’s Whole Lotta Blues is available at www.cduniverse.com

Founder/Publisher/Editor: David McGee
Contributing Editors: Billy Altman, Laura Fissinger, Christopher Hill, Derk Richardson
Logo Design: John Mendelsohn (www.johnmendelsohn.com)
Website Design: Kieran McGee (www.kieranmcgee.com)
Staff Photographers: Audrey Harrod (Louisville, KY; www.flickr.com/audreyharrod), Alicia Zappier (New York)
E-mail: thebluegrassspecial@gmail.com
Mailing Address: David McGee, 201 W. 85 St.—5B, New York, NY 10024