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Rob Rio - Thank You, Joe Turner

10 songs; 34:14; Splendid

Style: Jump Blues / West Coast Swing / Rock and Roll / Boogie-Woogie

Who was “The Boss of the Blues?” It was Big Joe Turner (1911 – 1985), and even if you are not familiar with his name, you probably know some of his hits, included here, like the classic song (and film) “Shake, Rattle & Roll,” “Flip, Flop, Fly” popularized in the 1980s by the Blues Brothers, and “Lipstick, Powder & Paint” covered by many artists including Delbert McClinton.

NYC born, but now residing in California, Rob Rio, “The Boss of the Boogie-Woogie & Blues Piano,” has issued this “Tribute To Big Joe Turner” in fine style. Tribute albums can be controversial. One school says, instead of listening to the tribute, why not just listen to the original artist. Conversely, if one likes a certain artist, he/she will enjoy the covers done by that artist. My opinion: why not enjoy both?

Sincere musicians will tell you the emphasis should be on “the song” anyway, not the artist. The house-party fun on this album is way too good to be dismissed as a “mere tribute.”

To get a great full band sound, Rio gathered an all-star lineup in the studio to accompany his own deft piano and versatile vocals. Job Striles – guitar, Larry Taylor – bass, Richard Innes – drums, Bill Flores – tenor, alto sax, Jeff Turmes – baritone, tenor sax, and Corey Gemme – trumpet. Rick Holmstrom guests on guitar on three songs while Job Striles and Valerie Sooky add background vocals on one track.

The opening number, “Thank You, Joe Turner,” is the only non-Joe song in the set. The lyrics run down some of Turner’s styles (e.g. blues shouting) and history, like singing blues while, at the same time, tending bar in Kansas City circa 1930.

“Shake, Rattle & Roll” was Turner’s biggest smash hit, and it will have you, too, believing that the devil wears “nylon hose.” Rio takes a nice mid song piano solo followed by the type of wailing saxophone that would have Big Joe broadly smiling and snapping his fingers.

To hear some more of Rob Rio’s award winning boogie-woogie piano, check the up tempo “Corinna, Corinna” and “Boogie Woogie Country Girl.

During the mid-tempo “Cherry Red” are we allowed to laugh (with out being politically incorrect) at the idea that this African American singer’s girlfriend will “jump in her big brass bed and rock him ‘til his face turns “Cherry Red’”? Aw, it’s all done in salacious fun, anyway.

More fun: Turner’s “Wee, Wee Baby” is anything but a wee lassie. Rio sings, “...You’re sure looking good to me.” But, the protagonist is so frustrated with his love interest he would like to “go upside her head, if he only could,” but you see, “She’s six-foot-two, weighs 295 – big mama”! Look out! Holmstrom delivers a very tasty mid-song guitar solo here.

Overall, this is a wonderful album. The songs only run about three minutes each, maintaining their crispness. Rio’s vocals are a more than an adequate honor to Big Joe, the musical team is superior, and these bouncy songs are so good that one can not help but enjoy them.

At 34 minutes, they probably should have added about three more numbers. Hey, but who is counting when you are having this much fun?

Reviewer James “Skyy Dobro” Walker is a noted Blues writer, DJ and Blues Blast contributor. His weekly radio show “Friends of the Blues” can be heard each Thursday from 4:30 – 6:00pm on WKCC 91.1 FM in Kankakee, IL

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