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Unfamiliar with Tab Benoit? Get hip via his excellent "Legacy" collection

Concord Music Group
Louisiana blues guitarist Tab Benoit is coming to Oklahoma City's VZD's on Sunday night.
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ALBUM REVIEW: Tab Benoit – Legacy: The Best of Tab Benoit (Concord Music Group) 2012

This morning, while listening to the radio, John Lee Hooker’s 1966 version of Amos Milburn’s 1953 R&B hit “One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer” and I just absorbed the lyrics, the feel, the soul of a song about a man drinking his cares away at the local watering hole ‘cause his woman has done him wrong.

And one man who gets that is Louisiana-based, swamp-blues musician Tab Benoit, a three-time Grammy-nominated and four-time Blues Music Awards “Entertainer of the Year” winner. And now the Houma native is in the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame, joining Louis Armstrong, Mahalia Jackson, Fats Domino, Buddy Guy, Jerry Lee Lewis, Leadbelly, Louis Prima, Little Richard and many more.

And Oklahoma City is in for an amazing treat this Sunday night when Benoit and his band take the stage at VZD’s, as they tour the Heartland and the Deep South, hitting various roots and blues festivals, as well as wrapping up in Houma – deep in the bayou – to play three nights at the Voice of the Wetlands Festival.

Benoit loves the Chicago Blues, in addition to the Delta Blues and blues out of New Orleans. Said Benoit of the aforementioned John Lee Hooker: “Let music be the medicine. Like John Lee Hooker once said, ‘Blues is the healer.’

Although Benoit had been around for a decade or so when I was an entertainment writer at a Louisiana newspaper (before a couple of notorious hurricanes in 2005 blew me up to the Oklahoma prairie), he was one of many exceedingly talented singers and musicians I covered in the early 2000’s, back when Benoit was grabbing folks’ attention with fantastic albums like Wetlands, Whiskey Store and Fever for the Bayou. Most of the Cajun artists I wrote about hailed from Ville Platte and across Acadiana. And Benoit was definitely in the mix.

Benoit’s cover of Otis Redding’s “These Arms of Mine,” originally featured on 2001’s Wetlands, is outstanding and soulful and appears amongst the 14 tracks on the 2012 Concord Music Group “best of collection” Legacy: The Best of Tab Benoit.

But the songs on Legacy showcase a cross-section of Benoit’s immense talent and his deep appreciation for soul, blues, folk and rock, along with some elements of gospel and swamp-pop, for good measure.

Original Benoit-penned numbers including “Muddy Bottom Blues, “Night Train” and “Darkness” demonstrate the depth of Benoit’s talent as a vocalist and guitarist, while his “Nice and Warm” benefits from Stevie Ray Vaughan’s Double Trouble rhythm section of bassist Tommy Shannon and drummer Chris Layton, with Jimmy Thackery sharing guitar duties.

His live version of “New Orleans Ladies” (featuring Jimmy Hall) is stunning. While the cover of Buddy and Julie Miller’s “Shelter Me,” from 2007’s Power of the Pontchartrain was particularly potent in those dark months after Katrina devastated New Orleans and the Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama Gulf Coast.

On that same album – and featured here on Legacy as well – is a swampy cover of Buffalo Springfield’s “For What It’s Worth,” a song that likely made songwriter Stephen Stills proud, especially as Benoit updated the lyrics to include references to the devastation that befell his bayou homeland while driving the power of the song home with shots of blues guitar licks that cut deep.

Benoit chases a hoodoo down on the bayou with his distinctive cover of Screamin’ Jay Hawkins’ “I Put a Spell On You.” While on his original "Medicine," Benoit's lets loose on that guitar of his as he's accompanied by guitarist Anders Osborne, bassist Corey Duplechin and highly-sought-after Shreveport native and drummer Brady Blade. 

Another cover song, Billy Joe Shaver's country actually features Shaver singing alongside Benoit, who also plays pedal steel. And it's also nice to hear Waylon Thibodeaux's fiddle playing. Thibodeaux is a singer and fiddle phenom down in Sportsman's Paradise, and one of the Cajun artists I promoted in my coverage of traditional Louisiana-based music. 

A studio track that is dynamite live is the Cyril Neville-Norman Caesar-Taj Mahal number "The Blues Is Here to Stay." A blues-smooth name droppin' song that gets the crowd dancing and was a song that first appeared on Benoit's 2004 album Fever for the Bayou.

I suspect Tab Benoit and his band will break out a number of these songs Sunday night at VZD's along with many more and, perhaps, some new material, since it's high time he came out with a new record. Hope y'all can make it out to VZD's on Sunday night. You won't want to miss it!

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Andrew W. Griffin

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Andrew W. Griffin received his Bachelor of Science in Journalism from...

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Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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