Troy Turner Band
Calgary International Blues Festival (2016)
Some artists do their best to interpret the blues. Blues singer and guitarist Troy Turner has lived them.
Born in Louisiana in 1967 and raised in Baton Rouge, Troy first started singing in the Starhill Baptist Church choir at the age of five. Already he was an orphan of sorts. His father died in a tragic car accident when Troy was three; his mother was clinically depressed and living in an institution during most of his childhood. His paternal grandparents, Edna Mae, a respected gospel singer, and Henry, raised Troy. They were the first to recognize his musical talent. Edna Mae sent Troy to school to learn to play the several instruments, including the sousaphone and the guitar, but balked when she heard him play the blues, a genre she still thought of as "the devil's music." One night at Soweto's, his grandmother, Edna Mae marched in, broomstick in hand, to escort a mortified 14 year old, Troy, home.
It wasn't long before Troy was sneaking out of the house at night to hang with the late harmonica master Raful Neal, who had famously played with Buddy Guy in the blues band 'The Clouds', and jam at local clubs like Tabby's Blues Box, Byron's and Soweto's. Customers were so taken with his youthful appearance they nicknamed him 'baby face'. Troy may have been young, but he's always claimed to have an "old soul." In fact, he says with a smile, that he's really 84. Troy was a huge Prince fan in his teen years. He dressed like the 'Purple One' in high school, and even thought of himself as a Southern version of the Minnesota superstar. He attacked songs with an aggressive style that earned him another moniker - 'Troy Turner, Guitar Burner'. His sound was so recognizable, people could tell who was playing the moment he struck the first note, whether they could see him or not. Troy could easily have been the "sharp dressed man" in ZZ Top's song because his look (complete with handful of aces hat, tailored suits, flashy belt buckles and boots) was as distinctive as his sound.
Troy left Baton Rouge for New Orleans in 1988 and quickly became a regular fixture on the scene. For the next five years he wowed audiences at Tipitina's, House of Blues, Maple Leaf, Carrolton Station, and Rock'n'Bowl. Though he bled the blues, he also got hooked on funk and his fascination with the work of R&B artists like Prince, Rick James and The Time caused him to begin experimenting with different styles during his nearly nightly gigs.
Beginning in 1990 Troy began playing the festival circuit in the U.S. (including seven straight years at New Orleans Jazz Festival) and toured Europe, where he especially wowed the crowd at the Pistoia Festival in Helsinki, Finland, playing a crowd-mandated triple encore.
After touring the country with Third Gear, the band he formed with Raful Neal's son, Darnell and Greg Kaiser, Troy recorded his first two solo albums, Teenage Blues in Baton Rouge (Kingsnake, 1990) and Handful of Aces (Kingsnake, 1992). By the age of 23, he had already been touted as a major blues force to watch by Rolling Stone, Guitar Player, Living Blues and Guitar World. Van Halen lead singer, David Lee Roth, told Guitar World that Troy's first two records were two of his all-time favorites.
Troy received the coveted J.D. Miller Award from the Louisiana Blues Hall of Fame for his outstanding contribution to the genre. His third album, Blues On My Back (Telarc, 1999), was also widely acclaimed by industry publications. In a 1999 overview, AllMusic Guide's Ron Wynn wrote, "Troy Turner's sound symbolizes the 'contemporary' 90s artist. He includes soul, funk and rock elements in his playing but also sings powerhouse straight blues tunes."
Troy spent the last decade playing all over the world, and has shared the stage with stars like Stevie Ray Vaughan, Albert Collins, Etta James, The Neville Brothers, Leon Russell, Edgar Winter, Derek Trucks, War, Steppenwolf, Spirit, Ohio Players, Beau Jocque, Koko Taylor, Jeff Healey, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Buddy Guy, Charlie Musselwhite, Bonnie Raitt, Wild Cherry, Guitar Slim Jr., Living Colour’s Muzz Skillings and CJ Chenier. He currently relocated to Canada but considers New Orleans his home. He is also comfortable being on the road. When he is on stage playing, his head thrown back, eyes closed, it is easy to see that Troy is the living embodiment of the blues.
Whole Lotta Blues, Troy Turner's fourth studio album, is a reflection of both his combustible guitar skill and vocal virtuosity. Though he hasn't released a record in over a decade, he's used the time to gain perspective. His signature lead guitar work reflects the seasoning of a veteran craftsman who's added to his considerable musical arsenal. The fiery "gunslinger" is still evident, but his solo work on this record is often restrained and understated. He's not trying to overpower its songs as much as compliment them. In that regard he's made a quantum leap forward from his previous efforts. Troy's matured as a songwriter, with substantial lyric and melodic contributions to "Don't Push Your Luck" and "Goin' Fishin'." Troy's vocals on Whole Lotta Blues are convincingly powerful, a sign that he's progressed past earlier comparisons to a young B.B. King. There may be a bit of B.B. in Troy's rendering of "Come To Your Senses" or "Don't Push Your Luck," but it's clear that Troy has taken charge of his identity and forged a bold new persona with this album. In fact, this collection may very well put him right back where he belongs - in the middle of the blues map. The credit for the masterfully dynamic result can also be shared with renowned producer Jon Tiven and the album’s supporting cast, some of blues, rock and soul's most outstanding personalities.
Howard Tate, a respected vocalist since he burst on the scene in the late 60s, duets with Troy on Never Too Big for the Blues. " I knew our voices would go together," says Tate, "But when he plays that guitar, whoa! He s a monster." Troy also teams up with guitar legend, Steve Cropper and Young Rascals founder, Felix Cavaliere on piano, for the high energy "Foolin' Yourself." The hauntingly rhythmic "Come to Your Senses" (by Queen's Brian May and Tiven and featuring Cropper) allows Troy to stretch out and distinguish himself as an innovator as well as trustworthy blues purveyor. Even Minnesota Senator Al Franken appears in the liner notes. Franken co-wrote the humorous "Blue Hair Woman" with his former band mates Tiven and Tiven's wife Sally in the early 80s.
Tiven, Whole Lotta Blues producer and guiding light, began his career in rock's "golden era" as a writer for Rolling Stone, Melody Maker, Fusion and virtually every other hip music magazine of the late 60s and early 70s. A gifted songwriter/musician as well, he wrote or co-wrote all but one of the album's fourteen tracks (Don Nix's classic "Goin' Down"). Having worked as an A&R exec for Chess Records, Tiven hit stride when he segued from behind a desk to the mixing board and the concert stage. He's produced records for artists like B.B. King, Wilson Pickett, Don Covay, Alex Chilton, Frank Black and Cropper/Cavaliere, formed his own bands (including The Yankees), played on numerous sessions with the likes of soul legend Major Lance and the Rolling Stones and written material for Buddy Guy, Robert Cray, Koko Taylor, B.B. King and the Jeff Healey Band.
Though they met and worked together in the mid 90s, Troy and Tiven have chosen to present a new batch of material, one more suited to Troy's growth as both a performer and recording artist. In his liner notes for the album, Tiven crystallizes Troy's essence as "...both the future of the blues and... (a reflection of its) traditional spirit. When I hear Troy sing and play, I hear... B.B. King and Buddy Guy... but I also hear Troy's singular and identifiable style. That's no mean feat. That's a Whole Lotta Blues."
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