Tab Benoit

The Sea Saint Sessions

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    8
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Tab Benoit's third album in just over two years (including his collaboration with Jimmy Thackery) is, like his previous few releases, a loose and homey affair. Recorded at the titular New Orleans studio and featuring Crescent City guests Cyril Neville and Big Chief Monk Boudreaux, along with funky Meters Brian Stoltz and George Porter sitting in on various tracks, this is a live-sounding disc with few obvious overdubs. Benoit's road band, comprised of bassist Carl DuFrene and drummer Darryl White, knows how to keep the pocket mean and lean yet flexible, giving the guitarist room to roam against the funky rhythm section. Except for an explosive cover of Howlin' Wolf's "Howlin' for My Darling" and Eddie Jones' slow blues "Sufferin' Mind," the tunes are written or co-written by Benoit. As the title of "Solid Simple Thing" suggests, these songs aren't breaking new ground, but they do allow the singer to stretch out, albeit in territory familiar to his fans. So even though "Darkness" is a straight slow blues, Benoit's gutsy voice, powerful delivery, and swampy guitar make it a perfect vehicle to showcase his strengths. A call-and-response duet with Boudreaux featuring Benoit playing slinky slide was probably written as it was first played, providing a friendly living-room vibe that feels as comfy as a pair of old jeans. Neville adds some frothy funk when he sings on a sexy "Plareen Man," trading verses with Benoit, who contributes a frisky, sinuous solo as Boudreaux slaps his tambourine. "Hustlin' Down in New Orleans," with guitarist Stoltz, won't exactly give Bob Dylan a run for his money lyrically, but sets up an easygoing R&B stride with alternating guitar solos. It, like the rest of this fiery, foot-tapping album, could not have been recorded anywhere else in the world.

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