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Music Review: Tab Benoit – Legacy: The Best Of Tab Benoit

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Many people consider the southern Delta region of the United States as the cradle of the blues. Blues artists have been emerging from that area since the early 20th century. Tab Benoit, born during 1967 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, is one of the latest practitioners in the long line of Delta blues artists.

He formed his first band during 1987 and released his debut album, Nice And Warm, in 1993. He has now issued close to 20 albums, while constantly touring for the past quarter century.

He is a consummate electric blues guitarist and singer, straight from the Delta. His voice is somewhat gruff but is a fine instrument for his chosen style of music. The high point of any of his albums is his powerful and improvisational guitar play. He makes each note sound distinct and has the ability to run them together into a style that is solely his own.

He has recorded for the Telarc label for the past 14 years and now has gathered many of his best tracks from the period to form Legacy: The Best Of Tab Benoit. In addition to his various backing bands throughout his career, he also is backed by such guest artists as Jimmy Thackery, Billy Joe Shaver, Jimmy Hall, Cyril Neville, and Waylon Thibodeaux.

The first four tracks are a microcosm of his sound. The album begins with a powerful interpretation of Buddy Miller’s “Shelter Me” that immediately establishes his connection to his Delta heritage. His follows with his own “Night Train,” an up-tempo foot stomper. Sometimes simple is best as he is backed by only a bass and drums. Like many great guitarists, he is able to fill in both the rhythm and lead guitar parts. He slows down Screamin’ Jay Hawkins “I Put A Spell On You” until it almost reaches a painful tempo that is straight blues. Finally his cover of the Stephen Stills classic, “For What It’s Worth,” is removed from its rock foundation and re-configured as an ominous Creedence-type interpretation.

Other outstanding tracks are the driving “Muddy Bottom Blues” and a live version of “Bayou Boogie,” which includes guitarist Thackery, sax player Jimmy Carpenter, bassist Carl Dufrene, and the dual drumming of Daryl White and Mark Stutso. The only non-blues tune is Billy Joe Shaver’s “Comin’ On Strong,” who also adds a vocal. Benoit switches to a pedal steel and fiddler Waylon Thibodeaux are also on board for a straight country performance.

Tab Benoit has remained connected to the southern Delta and has been inducted into the Louisiana Hall Of Fame. His new album shows off the best of the area’s influences by one of the best practitioners of the modern electric blues.

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