Maybe it’s no surprise that Henry Turner Jr. spent 10 years crafting his new album. Besides being a singer, songwriter and guitarist, musical entrepreneur Turner produces three Baton Rouge festivals and operates Henry Turner Jr.’s Listening Room on North Street.
But now is the time for “Now,” a diverse new album of eight Turner originals. Performing soul, funk, romantic R&B and smooth jazz, Turner surveys his style-hopping, 40-plus-year career. He also sings about his native Louisiana, celebrating food, football and Mardi Gras.
Turner’s large supporting cast includes vocalists Char Robertson, Jenessa Nelson, Wyanda R. Paul and Molly Mine; keyboardists Maestro, JahB and Tony Mitchell; percussionist Larry Bradford; and two John Fred and His Playboy Band members, saxophonist and keyboardist Andrew Bernard and guitarist Lynn Ourso.
True to form for the music entrepreneur who founded the Baton Rouge Soul Food Festival, “Now” opens with “I Love My Soul Food.” Probably no vocalist has sung more sensuously about food than Turner. Above a silky, hypnotic R&B groove, he makes love through the microphone to such soul food cuisine as turkey necks, rice and gravy and sweet potatoes.
Like “I Love My Soul Food,” “I’m Going Down to the Mardi Gras” makes a musical connection to another of his festival productions, the Baton Rouge Mardi Gras Festival. Showing his versatility, Turner lets the good times roll in this funk workout featuring Bernard’s sax and keyboards and Nelson’s backing vocals.
Bernard and Nelson join Ourso’s guitar for another of the album’s party picks, “Baton Rouge Theme Song.” Setting his tribute to Louisiana’s capital city in a swamp-blues vein, the track features appropriately feel-good, shuffling rhythm.
The album’s Louisiana flavor continues with “That’s My Saints.” Turner and company, including Joey Decker playing multitracked horns, perform this high-spirited ode to the New Orleans Saints football team zydeco style. “That’s my team,” Turner proclaims. “Do you know what I mean?”
For “1 (One) Wish,” Turner turns the lead vocalist spotlight on Robertson, the song’s co-writer. Despite the music’s mellow groove, Robertson passionately expresses the song’s anxious lyrics. In another of the album’s stylistic departures, Turner leaves voices mostly out of the blissful “Irenkar,” a smooth jazz number featuring guitar in the foreground.
Turner is also the eponymous producer of a music festival each October. His album, “Now,” is available from digital music platforms worldwide.