George Benson review….May 8, 2019….

GEORGE BENSON

WALKING TO NEW ORLEANS

REMEMBERING CHUCK BERRY AND FATS DOMINO

PROVOGUE RECORDS  PRD 75812

NADINE (IS IT YOU)–AIN’T THAT A SHAME–ROCKIN’ CHAIR–YOU CAN’T CATCH ME–HAVANA MOON–I HEAR YOU KNOCKING–MEMPHIS, TENNESSEE–WALKING TO NEW ORLEANS–BLUE MONDAY–HOW YOU’VE CHANGED

George Benson, a ten-time Grammy Award winner, has always had his finger on the pulse of American music.  Witness his early works as leader of the George Benson Quartet with swingin’ versions of Ain’t That Peculiar,” “A Foggy Day In London Town,” and other hits of the day, and continued into the Seventies during his “Breezin” period, with “On Broadway,” and “This Masquerade.”  It is no surprise that his latest album for Provogue remembers two recently-passed American musical legends, Fats Domino and Chuck Berry.  It is entitled “Walking To New Orleans,” and, herein, George and his world-famous Ibanez guitar tackles five cuts from each legend, doing them as only George can do.  The collection was laid down here in Nashville, with Kevin Shirley producing.  George’s backing band includes Rob McNelley on rhythm, Kevin McKendree on keys, and horn men Lee Thornburg, Paulie Cerra, and Ron Dzuibla.

Every cut is a champ, and most fans will know them by heart.  George’s arrangements allow for stretching out a bit, and has more use of the horns to keep a strong Big Easy vibe.  Elements of the originals run thru them all, such as that undeniable riff that drives the story of young love, lust, boats, and rum beneath the “Havana Moon.”  Ditto for “Memphis, Tennessee,” this version speeded-up just a measure.  Kevin channels his inner Fats on a mighty piano break on “Ain’t That A Shame,” and George captures the essence of Berry’s blues influences as the set closes with one of Chuck’s bluesier offerings, “How You’ve Changed,” with Kevin doin’ his best Johnnie Johnson on this cut’s slow groove.

Our favorite was what this whole thing was all about.  The saxes kick off the Fat Man’s ode to the workin’ man, and “how I hate Blue Monday.”

A great man once also said that “it was worth it, for the times that I’ve had,” as these songs by their originators forged the soundtrack to our lives.  Revel in the versions presented by one of the premier guitarists on the planet, and let’s go “Walking To New Orleans” with George Benson!   Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues And Roots Alliance.

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