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May 2002

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Tab Benoit

Editor's Note: Two of our reviewers submitted rave reviews of the new Tab Benoit CD, so we include both viewpoints this month.

Tab Benoit - Wetlands One of a handful of bright rising stars in contemporary blues, Tab Benoit has drawn resemblance to guitar legends such as Jimi Hendrix, Albert Collins and Albert King. While the modest guitarist scoffs at the comparisons, his playing is remarkable and versatile. His latest offering is varied, as Benoit draws from an assortment of styles, from swamp blues and East Texas guitar-driven blues to Delta and Soul.

Wetlands is the first release from Tab Benoit since 1999. While the recording is long overdue, it was worth the wait and a worthy predecessor to These Blues Are All Mine. Tab gets his mojo working from the first track with a couple Delbert-esque tunes, "Fast and Free" and "I Got Loaded." With only an acoustic guitar, harmonica and maracas, Benoit takes the listener back to the Delta with "Stackolina." The blues singer ventures into the world of soul with a cover of the Otis Redding "These Arms Of Mine." Fusing a funk beat with bluesy guitar riffs and solos on "Let Love Take Control" creates a union of two distinct genres which mesh together for a unique sound.

Diversity is a strategic element of Tab Benoit's success; after only five solo recordings, Benoit seems to have grown quickly as an artist. The varied musical styles on Wetlands is evidence that this guitar player has just begun to come into his own.

--- Tony Engelhart

Louisiana is known for its culturally rich heritage. Spawned by the cross-pollination of French-Canadian refugees and African slaves, the state is known best for its hybrid music and savory food. On his Telarc debut, native son Tab Benoit celebrates his ancestry using his sturdy vocals, definitive guitar playing and distinctive songwriting.

A guitar player since his teenage years, Tab hung out at the Blues Box, a ramshackle music club in Baton Rouge run by guitarist Tabby Thomas. Playing guitar alongside Thomas, Raful Neal, Henry Gray and other regulars, Benoit was schooled at the feet of blues masters. For 10 years, he has made records that only hinted at his bayou roots. Now he boldly declares his lineage via 13 songs which converge many musical genres. His stripped-down bass and drum accompaniment (Carl Dufrene and Darryl White) allows him to be front and center for the discís 57 minutes. Together they interact and interplay off Tabís guitar and produce a fat sound for a threesome.

"Stackolina" is a perfect melting pot of electric guitar, harp and percussion. It's real, authentic down-on-the-bayou material. The chord arrangements on Liíl Bob & the Lollipopsí "I Got Loaded" will have you as satisfied as consuming a southern meal. The tune features a "Turn On Your Love Light" groove and melodic guitar solos. Donít expect a bucket full of notes, as Tab knows the proper amount that makes a good measure. He also knows how to motivate himself. Just like hearing gasps at the local gym, you hear him edging and enticing himself on as he solos through "Muddy Bottom Blues." Only the highest caliber artist can handle the stress of performing solo. For proof that Benoit is in that percentile, listen to the autobiographical "When A Cajun Man Gets The Blues" and "Down In The Swamp," where it's just his electric guitar and voice. "These Arms Of Mine" is beautiful, brilliant and incredibly moving. More than a hint of Otis Reddingís vocal style shines through here. For some fun, hip-shaking funk, there is "Let Love Take Control" and Boozoo Chavisí "Dog Hill."

Prodigiously talented Tab Benoit has released a disc full of indigenous music. Expect everything from swampy ballads to brisk shuffles and everything in between. He even manages to get accordion and rubboard sounds out of his Telecaster. Where else could such a disc have been recorded but in Louisiana? Sure, the songs start to sound familiar, but they are tantalizing. Tabís leathery voice and gleaming guitar promise a mighty future for this artist who isnít even 40 years old. John Sinclair sums things up to a tee in his liner notes ... "Tabís going for the heart of the blues, and he knows just how to keep it beating well into the 21st century.

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---- Tim Holek

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