Turner and Shorty: Loud 'n' proud
By JEREMY LOOME, EDMONTON SUN
THE TURNER DIARIES
4 out of 5
When it comes to a short look at the latest efforts from the two loudest men in blues, questions must be posed: how long can Eddie Turner remain under wraps? And can Guitar Shorty just keep getting better with age?
Really, these days, that's what it comes down to when a guy with the crossover potential of Turner is labelled a "blues guitarist." He's not. He's a brilliant rock guitarist, a brilliant blues guitarist, a brilliant guitarist, period. And it's not for his complexity of technique but for his eclectic combination of the many standard scale and chord progressions the two forms share. You've heard this stuff before, just never this inventively.
In other words, he kicks hard ass, with distortion, but still manages to be comfortable and somewhat familiar. As such, he's playable on any number of radio formats and, if the Stevie Ray/Hendrix models are anything to go by, will always have a healthy rock 'n' roll following.
His first disc has scanned less than 2,000 copies, however, despite getting glowing notices in major magazines, newspapers and radio.
Why? Probably because it was marketed as a blues disc, and most of the public simply isn't exposed to blues. Record stores don't carry it because people aren't exposed to it because radio stations won't play it, so it doesn't sell, regardless of how brilliant and genre-bending it might be.
It's one of the truly stupid and short-sighted aspects of the music biz.
It's much more likely that a guy like Turner will be repositioned by the industry marketing him than for the public to suddenly start paying attention to the blues.
Of course, both can happen to an extent, as Guitar Shorty is proving. He had one of the best selling blues albums of 2004 simply by ramping up the distortion and crunch factor on his otherwise fairly standard-but-talented blues guitar. But as a blues disc, it still didn't pull in major label rock numbers.
Turner has more of an advantage in drawing a wide audience. Along with playing fine blues, he dips into soul, ethnic Caribbean rhythms and deep, eccentricly colourful lyrics uncommon to many blues albums. If there's one consistent knock against the blues, it's the simplicity of it. That's never the case with Turner.
The Turner Diaries, his second release since leaving his role as studio musician and perennial sideman, is at times cacophonic, at times smooth and sultry and never, ever boring. From a sweet pop tune like Jody to the sonic carnage of Cost of Freedom, Turner addresses everything from the usual love and remorse to modern politics, race relations and simple optimism. The disc is ironically titled: the book of the same name is a ridiculous racist rant about the fracturing of America along racial lines, and is a favourite of White supremacists, replete with imagery of black people being cannibals. For Turner to reclaim it and refute it at the same time seems just.
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