Monday, July 25, 2011

Jeff Turmes' "Five Horses, Four Riders" Is Blues & Roots Gem

Jeff Turmes is a multi-talented bass player, vocalist and songwriter that currently is in Mavis Staples' touring band. He has graced numerous recordings including Mavis' Grammy Award winning album, You Are Not Alone. His most recent recording Five Horses, Four Riders (Fat Head Records), mixes blues and roots for a rich musical stew. The production here is austere, and the tenor of the performances is similar to his recent work with Mavis Staples.

One can hear echoes of John Lee Hooker boogie groove on the opening Something Must Have Happened, one of three performances that include Turmes' Mavis Staples bandmates, guitarist Rick Holmstrom and drummer Stephen Hodges on drums. "Honey Man," with its Mississippi Hills groove, suggests to me my good friend Memphis Gold's style. Turmes employs atmospheric slide slide along with banjo in support of his unusual lyrics on Give Satan a Chance.

There is a folky mood on the title track with deft acoustic guitar and a lyric of four menacing men coming for Turmes' wife. Don't The Moon Look Real is a playful, swinging number to which Holmstrom adds twang, while Turn Your Heart In My Direction is a lovely ballad with the yearning vocal embellished by moody trumpet. Banjo accompaniment lends an old-time flavor to Weeds Like Us, followed by his acoustic blues accompaniment to Hew To The Roadside, with its advice that one needs to hew to the roadside if one wants to last. Overdubbed bass clarinet and baritone sax add a bottom under his adroit guitar playing.

The bluesy Jack-a-Hammer has a simple, repeated vamp as Turmes singing how this woman wears a man down. Loser's History is another folky number with topical lyrics as his banjo is framed by cello and violin. Turmes ability to craft lyrics that catch the listener's attention is also showcased on God Came Down from Heaven, followed by the emphatic groove on the bluesy When My Baby Wakes Up, with effective employment of baritone saxophones. The closing Iron City is a lovely instrumental displaying his deliberate guitar picking.

The production throughout is austere, and the tenor of the performances is similar to his recent work with Mavis Staples. Turmes' straight-ahead vocals, supported by the spare backing, adds to the performances atmosphere throughout. There is precision and restraint in the playing throughout resulting in substance rather than flashy pyrotechnics. Five Horses, Four Riders is a marvelous collection of blues and roots songs that linger in one's mind after hearing. Highly Recommended.

My review copy was received from a publicist for this release.

No comments: