Tab Benoit to Play Fox Theatre, 9/16
Tab Benoit is a Cajun man who's definitely got the blues. Born November 17, 1967, he grew up in Houma, Louisiana. A guitar player since his teenage years, he hung out at the Blues Box, a ramshackle music club and cultural center in nearby Baton Rouge run by guitarist Tabby Thomas. Playing guitar alongside Thomas, Raful Neal, Henry Gray and other high-profile regulars at the club, Benoit learned the blues first-hand from a faculty of living blues legends.
The nightly impromptu gigs were enough to inspire Benoit to assemble his own band - a stripped down bass-and-drums unit propelled by his solid guitar skills and leathery, Cajun-spiced vocal attack. He took his show on the road in the early '90s and hasn't stopped since.
Benoit landed a recording contract with the tiny, Texas-based Justice Records and released a series of well-received recordings, beginning in 1992 with Nice and Warm, an album that prompted comparisons to blues guitar heavyweights like Albert King, Albert Collins and even Jimi Hendrix. Despite the hype, Benoit has done his best over the years to maintain a commitment to his Cajun roots - a goal that often eluded him when past producers and promoters tried to turn him and his recordings in a rock direction, often against his better instincts. These Blues Are All Mine, released on Vanguard in 1999 after Justice folded, marked a return to the rootsy sound that he'd been steered away from for several years.
That same year, he appeared on Homesick for the Road, a collaborative album on Telarc International, a division of Concord Music Group, with fellow guitarists Kenny Neal and Debbie Davies. Homesick not only served as a showcase for three relatively young but clearly rising stars in the blues constellation, but also launched Benoit's relationship with Telarc that came to fruition in 2002 with the release of Wetlands - arguably the most authentically Cajun installment in his entire ten-year discography.
Later in 2002, Benoit released Whiskey Store, a collaborative recording with fellow axemaster and Telarc labelmate Jimmy Thackery. Also along for the ride on Whiskey Store are harpist Charlie Musselwhite and Double Trouble - the two-man rhythm section of bassist Tommy Shannon and drummer Chris Layton that backed Stevie Ray Vaughn on his brief but luminous blues career.
After a prolific first year with Telarc, Benoit continued to explore the bayou backbeat in 2003 with the June release of Sea Saint Sessions, a collection of gritty, Cajun-flavored tracks recorded at Big Easy Recording Studio (better known among musicians in the region as Sea Saint Studio) in New Orleans. In addition to Benoit and his regular crew - bassist Carl Dufrene and drummer Darryl White - Sea Saint Sessions includes numerous guest appearances by Big Chief Monk Boudreaux, Cyril Neville, Brian Stoltz and George Porter.
That same year, Benoit and Thackery took their dueling guitar show on the road and recorded a performance at the Unity Centre for Performing Arts in Unity, Maine. The result is Whiskey Store Live, a high-energy guitar fest released in February 2004.