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Joe Turley
When The Jitterbug Bites

Nashville-based Joe Turley is a multi-talented musician, deftly handling piano, Alto sax, and harmonica with frightening ease. And his new release, When the Jitterbug Bites, more than serves as a vehicle for his many talents.

Purists take note: this is not a straight-ahead swing or jump blues album, nor is it meant to be. Turley and his band specialize in blending diverse styles such as funk, rock, blues, western swing, and Latin sounds into the swing-jump soup, and the results are fun to hear.

Creative rhythm and horn arrangements abound on the first tune, "Ging Ginga Ding," along with harmonized guitar lines almost reminiscent of the doubled guitar parts in Steely Dan's "Bodhisattva." This device is also used well on "Like-i-Doo," a barn-burner of a tune that'll leave you winded. On other numbers, rootsy elements such as harmonica, slide guitar and Hawaiian lap steel guitar are used to great effect. His players are damn fine too. Jim Williamson's majestic trumpet work is lovely on "Sea of Miracles," as is the lap steel playing of Moose Harrell.

The delighfully schmaltzy "Tango Mi Corazon" sounds like a knife fight on the streets of Rio, and John England's apocalyptic electric guitar solo made me think of Marc Ribot dressed as a matador. But, swingheads, have no fear: A few tunes, such as "Sittin' On Santa's Knee," are well suited to an easy spin around the floor.

At times the songwriting seems a little hokey lyric-wise, but Joe has a certain charm and affability as a singer, an elusively friendly quality that's impossible to "put on." His uncanny ability to mix styles one thinks would never jell often works wonders, and his vision is carried out by a wildly talented group of musicians. When the Jitterbug Bites is a fun listen, with lots of kooky surprises.

-Chris Orbach



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