Best Of Tab Benoit
Legacy: The Best Of Tab Benoit
By Grant Britt
Picking a “best of” collection from the works of Tab Benoit is a daunting task. Over the last two decades, the Cajun soul man has produced a body of work that gets him billed primarily as a bluesman. But no matter what he tackles, his soul oozes out, permeating everything that he touches. His vocals fall somewhere between Delbert McClinton and Otis Redding with a Cajun accent.
Telarc went for a mix of covers and originals, and it’s a good representation of what Benoit’s all about as a writer, stylist, singer and guitarist. On his version of Otis’ classic “These Arms of Mine,” Benoit sings with the passion and the phrasing of Redding without copying him note for note. Originally released on ‘09’s Wetlands,Benoit said he always felt strongly about the song but was afraid to do it until fans requested it on his website. Cue it up back to back with Otis’s version for some real soul satisfaction.
Benoit’s take on Stephen Still’s ‘66 protest song “For What It’s Worth” retains the menacing and chilling tone of the original. He’s toned down Screamin’ Jay Hawkins’ hoodoo hell raiser “I Put Spell On You,” dropping Screamin’ Jay’s maniacal shrieks and moans, making it more of a quirky love song than a demonic stalking.
Julie Miller’s “Shelter Me,” culled from ‘07’s
Power Of the Pontchartrain, has gotten a revamping lately by Paul Thorn as well, on his latest,
What The Hell Is Goin’ On?
Benoit shows off his stellar pedal steel technique on “Coming On Strong,” trading off vocal duties with Billy Joe Shaver, who sounds like an old, cracked leather saddle, worn but comfortable. Cyril Neville’s “The Blues Is Here To Stay,” from ‘04’s
Fever For The Bayou,has Benoit trotting out his screamin’ Albert King licks that all but obliterate Neville’s attempts to vocalize.
He and original Nighthawk and current Driver Jimmy Thackery mix it up on a couple of cuts from ’02’s Whisky Store and ‘03’s Whisky Store Live,culminating in a blistering, ten minute, head-to-head guitar duel on “Bayou Boogie,” featuring Thackery’s band combined with Benoit’s.
It would have been nice to hear more soul, like “Sunrise” from ‘11’s Medicine. Although its not one of Redding’s tunes, its Otis in spirit, capturing his phrasing as well as his soul. Benoit’s excellent interpretation of Toussaint McCall’s classic swamp pop ballad “Nothing Takes the Place of You,” also from Medicine, would have been a welcome addition, and even though he stops short of attempting Fess’s wandering yodel on the Longhair classic “Her Mind Is Gone,” from ‘o9’s Wetlands, it’s a keeper, and would have been great to have in the collection as well.
Benoit’s catalogue is so strong that you could fill up a house with his best stuff and still need to build an addition to hold it all. So this‘ll do till the recession’s over, and then maybe Telarc will find a bigger house for Benoit’s best to live in.