Tab Benoit

Fever for the Bayou

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Tab Benoit's latest release on Telarc, Fever for the Bayou, continues in what has become Benoit's signature territory, a funky, ragged blend of Louisiana swamp blues and East Texas guitar, with hints of funk, soul, and country thrown in to give the gumbo just the right spice. If it sounds like a formula, well, Benoit's jagged guitar playing and increasingly soulful vocals make it clear that this is the music he loves, so it hardly matters. He touches a lot of bases here, including an eerie approximation of Elmore James' slide sound on a cover of James' "I Can't Hold Out" (which also features some cool tenor sax work from Jimmy Carpenter), then conjures Buddy Guy on Guy's "I Smell a Rat," fires up on the old Slim Harpo chestnut "Got Love if You Want It," and tears through a wonderfully swampy take on Levon Helm's "Blues So Bad" before ending things with an acoustic version of Clarence Williams' "My Bucket's Got a Hole in It" (made famous by another Williams, Hank Williams Sr.). Cyril Neville guests on two tracks, "The Blues Is Here to Stay" and "Little Girl Blues," while Big Chief Monk Boudreaux contributes and sings a delightful Mardi Gas chant called "Golden Crown." But the strongest tracks are all Benoit originals, including the fiery opener, "Night Train," the Stax-by-way-of-New Orleans stunner "Lost in Your Lovin'" (which shows that Benoit is as much a singer as he is a guitarist), and the voodoo swagger of "Fever for the Bayou." It's not just that Benoit plays the blues with a primal punch and more than a hint of grace and soul, it's that he has a vision for it, and grounds it in both time and place, which means that he isn't just another Stratocaster gunslinger, but an American original. It's time for people to catch up and discover this guy.

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