Review: Tab Beniot – Brother to the Blues

Here’s a review of Tab’s current album. As an added treat you’ll find Billy Joe Shaver contributing vocals on this one. Tab is a definite must to catch live.

You’ll also find a five part video podcast series on Tab’s efforts to bring awareness to the preservation of wetlands in Louisiana. Search under Tab Benoit MFF

Tab has a new album coming in June “Power of the Pontchartrain” on Telarc Records

 

REVIEW: Tab Benoit – Brother to the Blues

 

(Telarc) Hailing from Houma, Louisiana, blues guitarist Tab Benoit’s music has embraced nearly every spectrum of American roots music throughout his 15-year career. Tab’s latest release, Brother To The Blues comes close on the heels of last year’s, Fever For The Bayou that found him returning to the roots and multi-cultural spirit of the Louisiana Delta. Brother To The Blues finds Tab returning to his own roots- the music he grew up listening to that became an early influence. According to Tab, “I’ve always been a fan of early country music. I like the roots of American popular music, and the blues is a big part of that. But before there was blues and country there was country blues. That’s the foundation for all of this music: it comes from the same place. I grew up listening to a lot of the country legends – Hank Williams, George Jones, and others – and I always had it in mind that someday I’d like to make a record that takes into account all of my early musical influences. After some eleven records, I felt the time was right to record this special project, Brother to the Blues.”

Tab went into the studio and cut Brother To The Blues immediately following his Voice of the Wetlands Festival, held in his hometown of Houma. This time around, backing Tab’s solid guitar work and vocals is cult favorite Louisiana’s LeRoux, best known for its 1978 hit “New Orleans Ladies.” The band’s lineup for the album represent different eras of the band’s 30 year history- guitarist Tony Haselden, keyboardist Nelson Blanchard, bassist Leon Medica and drummer David Peters. Also on hand are Cajun fiddle virtuoso Waylon Thibodeaux, Jim Lauderdale who contributes both songs and vocals, and Tab’s former Justice Records label mate, Billy Joe Shaver, who also gives a vocal turn.

He chose George Jones’ “Brother To The Blues” as the title track for two reasons. The first reason is that it gave Tab his first opportunity to play steel guitar on one of his own albums. The second reason he says is because, “The title of it made a lot of sense. Country is like a brother to the blues. It was formed from the blues. I always looked at Hank Williams and George Jones as blues singers from the South. It seemed like the perfect song to put on this thing.” Tab proves that statement true as he turns in a sterling rendition with a heart wrenching vocal performance barely a stone’s throw from George’s, that’s laced with shimmering steel and Waylon’s flawless fiddle work.

Jim Lauderdale steps up and provides vocals on three songs. He delivers a wonderfully bluesy version of his own swaying “Gracie’s Song.” He moves it on over to the swampy side and infuses a resurrected Benoit original, “Moon Coming Over The Hill, with a dose of gritty backwoods soul- the result being something of delightful a cross between Delbert McClinton and Van Morrison, while he takes the high lonesome route harmonizing with Tab on a dead on rendition of the Jimmie Davis/Hank Williams classic, “I Heard That Lonesome Whistle Blow” that wrings every emotional drop out of the mournful lament. Tab also covers a Jim Lauderdale penned song, “I’m On Your Side,” a terrific country-blues rocker that’s filled with Jim’s frequent use of tempo changes. The always congenial Billy Joe Shaver drops by to share vocals on his own “Comin’ On Strong,” that’s given a Cajun flavor, and features more flawless steel and fiddle work.

Tab wanted to also cover a LeRoux song. He chose “Can’t Do One More Two-Step,” and delivers a delicious bayou mix of funky country and blues. A suggestion that came from his mother, Tab turns in a soulfully brilliant cover of Sam Cooke’s “Bring It On Home,” that has a slightly country-fried, late night, torchy feel to it. He also provides enough for fans of his usual brand of swampy Louisiana blues to feel right at home, with a funky cover of Freddie King’s “Pack It Up,” swinging blues on Little Johnny Taylor’s “If You Love Me Like You Say,” full-throttle boogie on Bobby Charles’ “Why Are People Like That?” and a reprise of another Benoit original, “So High” (which originally appeared on his ’92 debut album). He also reprises “Somehow,” that he originally did as a solo, but this time adding a full backing arrangement to this stunner of a late night, slow burning blues.

Returning to his roots, Brother To The Blues in another step in Tab Benoit’s evolution as a gifted guitarist, songwriter and singer that further displays the wide range of his stylistic talent and diversity. Here he’s delivered a first-rate album of roots music, that despite the slight departure from his usual fare and backing musicians, he retains his identity and it still sounds like a solid Tab Benoit album- one that should appeal to fans of blues, country and roots music alike.

AnnMarie Harrington TakeCountryBack April 2006

Dang — I’m a YouTube junkie –can’t but help share this video of Tab guesting on the drums with Phil Childress and Mike Williams covering “Keep Your Hands To Yourself”

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