If there’s one word you can definitely use to describe Gecko Turner’s music, it is “worldly.” The showcase of influences the Spanish-born musician brings to his newest record, Gone Down South, begins from the very first notes, and continues through the course of the entire album.
The opening notes of “Truly” mash salsa horns with just slightly motown piano, melding the two into a hook-laden tune that starts things off on a sufficiently positive note. Turner croons thinly atop these instruments, a lazy cowbell counting off the beat, the faintest hints of Bob Dylan leaking through when he draws out the long “u” sound. (In fact, try listening to his banter at the beginning of the next track and not thinking of Mr. Zimmerman). It’s about a minute into “Cuanta Suerte,” that it becomes clear this album isn’t going to be so easy to pin down, stylistically: a sultry woman’s voice laughs and says “papi” while Bill Evans-esque piano chords flow underneath.
Perhaps the best-executed tracks on Gone Down South are the funky-ass funk tunes. “Tea Time” is just a nice groove that doesn’t really go anywhere, but doesn’t really need to. If Gecko Turner is a self-professed “river boy,” then a song like “Tea Time” is the musical exemplification, ambling along, winding down to a trickle, before ending. Towards the end is the much harder-grooving “When I Woke Up,” which at its best would find itself perfectly in a 70s porno film.
Turner is complemented by a skillful backing band that clearly had a blast playing with the guy. Trumpet player Irapoan Freire stands out in particular, bringing an airy but lively tone to the horn, and Javier Maso, who demonstrates great versatility on the piano throughout the album. Maso shines especially in the album’s eponymous track, a dirty, soulful blues that he fills with thick, dynamic chord comping and a closing solo elegant in its simplicity. The backing vocal harmonies on “Mbira Bira” are full of life. Gone Down South is as much a collaboration album as it is the work of the man whose name is on the cover.
If there’s a negative aspect of this album, it is in Turner’s lyrics, and even then, it’s not because they’re particularly bad so much as they don’t really matter. That is, they’re more an avenue through which Turner can deliver his voice than conveying meaningful ideas or sentiments. (Granted, I don’t understand the non-English lyrics, which this album is full of, but I’m assuming they’re structured similarly).
Gone Down South is an album that really should have come out in the summer – it’s bright, light-hearted, groovy, and warm. It’s the kind of album where you imagine the musicians recording in the studio simply because it seems like it was so much fun to record. Gecko Turner shows with this album a great skill at weaving together musical styles that would seem incongruous. It’s not a long shot in saying that there’s something here for everybody, and hopefully the man will continue to hone his craft with the next album.