One Track Mind: Tab Benoit "Fever For The Bayou" (2005)

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As audacious as the claim might sound, Baton Rouge, Louisiana’s own Tab Benoit is the Bayou State’s answer to Stevie Ray Vaughan. It’s a feeling I’ve had from the time I discovered his well-received debut Nice And Warm from 1992 and haven’t wavered on that after about an album a year since then. He’s got all the right traits for righteous swamp blues: a gritty, country-boy voice; a lean and funky blues approach; and a stinging, angular, soul-wrenching guitar attack.

Just as Vaughan had come to epitomize Texas blues, Benoit has done the same for Louisiana (even as his guitar licks borrow as much from Texas as it does a little further east). Moreover, Benoit likes to stress his Cajun roots, and often does so in the lyrics of his own songs, whether it be longing for the or reveling in the laissez les bon temps roulez attitude of the South Louisiana region.

That’s just what he does for the title track from his superior 2005 release Fever For The Bayou. Benoit is one of the most consistently solid blues guys around and hadn’t let success affect his music one iota, but “Fever For The Bayou” is where he goes even further than usual to blend the blues with zydeco. Since zydeco is really a Creole offshoot of the blues, Benoit isn’t really inventing anything by doing that, just reminding us of the shared heritage of the two styles. The joyful chords he plays with his three piece band are full and are the kind of chords you’d hear out of an accordion.

Using a backdrop of a dance-inducing zydeco backbeat put down by drummer Darryl White and bassist Carl Dufrene, Tab sings his ode to the Cajun living:

Got the fever for the bayou,
Muddy water take me home
Got the fever for the bayou,
Muddy water take me home
I get high up on the mountain,
But I know where I belong

Down the Mississippi River,
To the Gulf of Mexico,
Down the Mississippi River,
To the Gulf of Mexico,
Where I find my Cajun baby,
And I dance the zydeco

Benoit trades off singing a few verses like those and playing a delicious blend of full chords and note-bending single high notes. It’s a style that’s become all his own and one I can’t get enough of.

Baton Rouge is home to so many local blues legends of the last few decades, from Tabby Thomas, to his son Chris, as well as Larry Garner and Kenny Neal. Perhaps the greatest of these legends is at his prime right now. It’s Tab Benoit’s equal devotion to both the rich heritage of Louisiana culture and the rich heritage of the blues that’s got him to that rightful status.

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron is an SQL demon for a Fortune 100 company by day, music opinion-maker at night. His musings are strewn out across the interwebs on jazz.com, AllAboutJazz.com, a football discussion board and some inchoate customer reviews of records from the late 1990s on Amazon under a pseudonym that will never be revealed. E-mail him at svaaron@somethingelsereviews .com or follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SVictorAaron
S. Victor Aaron
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