Tab BENOIT – The Sea Saint Sessions 2003

Tab BENOIT – The Sea Saint Sessions 2003

Blues

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.
By Hal Horowitz.
**
Soulful singer and guitarist Tab Benoit has never made secret his devout allegiance to the Louisiana music tradition. With The Sea Saint Sessions, Benoit, ably assisted by several Crescent City stalwarts, takes his music back to the source, setting up shop at the famed hit factory to cook up a sonic gumbo that successfully recaptures the spontaneity of the classic Sea Saint sound. Benoit’s guests conjure up some of the studio’s old musical magic as “Big Chief” Monk Boudreaux infuses Mardi Gras Indian spirit into “Monk’s Blues,” Meter man George Porter Jr. funkifies “Making the Bend,” and Cyrille Neville sings on his own “Plareen Man”. But it is Benoit’s distinctive guitar lines–somehow both supple and hard-edged–and the impeccable elasticity of his regular rhythm section that makes the music work. Most of the material is Benoit’s own, although he pays tribute to Louisiana legend Guitar Slim with a take on the classic “Sufferin’ Mind” and dips into the Howlin’ Wolf songbook for a rendition of “Howlin’ for My Darling”. By Michael Point.
**
When you’re cooking gumbo you’ve got to start with a good roux; that’s the beginning and the end to any gumbo. You also need to have some good fresh ingredients and some friendly spirits to infuse all the different flavors. Well Tab Benoit has done it again, just like I’ve heard he cooks gumbo, he has mixed just the right ingredients with some friendly spirits to create a very tastefully done album. The Sea Saint Sessions burns with spicy rhythms, unique guitar leads and deep, soulful lyrics. To finish this delicious mix he’s added a few friends with Big Chief Monk Boudreaux, Cyril Neville, Brian Stoltz and George Porter, Jr. It jumps right out at you with a funky R&B number called “Baby Blue.” You’re not one minute into this album before the guitar licks start to mesmerize you. The solid rhythms of Carl Dufrene on bass and Darryl White on drums get right up in your face. You can tell right out that these three musicians have an almost sixth sense for what each other is going to do. This is due partly from their playing together for some time and traveling the road together. But keep in mind they are from the land of Louisiana and strange things brew down in the Bayou. It slides right into “Boat Launch Baby,” a Cajun Zydeco Jump track that will have you dancing around, just like when you add too much Tabasco to the gumbo. As the title of the CD hints, this was recorded at Big Easy Recording Studios (aka Sea Saint Studios) in New Orleans, Louisiana and all the flavors of that great musical city show up here. “Sufferin’ Mind,” the Eddie Jones classic performed by so many great artists like Louisiana legend Guitar Slim, Buddy Guy, Solomon Burke and Roomful of Blues, is sure to get your groove on. Benoit does a great job of paying tribute to this slow Blues number with his soulful vocals right out in front, solid lead guitar licks and a lean and mean rhythm section. As anyone who has visited the flavorful city of New Orleans will agree, the next track’s lyrics and funky beat truly capture the feel of the French Quarter. “Hustlin’ Down in New Orleans” with Brian Stoltz on guitar and vocals is an apt description of winding your way through the Quarter. This song is just a fun run down Magazine Street with all the hustlers out in force. With this funky beat playin’ in your head you will be able to duck and dodge ’em all like a running back for the New Orleans Saints. “Solid Simple Thing” starts out as a standard 12-bar blues number, yet you can still feel that Bayou swamp right at yer feet. Tab stays true to his Louisiana roots throughout this album. He has the unique ability to take a 12-bar blues number and infuse it with that Louisiana spice. Next is “What I Have to Do,” a broken-hearted blues ballad that is just that, Blues with a feeling. This album has that “live living room” feel to it and that is clearly felt on “Monk’s Blues” with Big Chief Monk and Tab swappin’ stories and vocals. This track is pure blues and as real as it gets. As Tab says in the liner notes, “We captured moments and exactly what was going on. I like that style of recording.” “Makin’ The Bend” co-written by Tab and George, has some tasty licks and a solid beat you will surely be shaking you head too. “Howlin’ For My Darling” the Howlin’ Wolf/Willie Dixon classic is a good showcase for Tab’s burning guitar licks and very well done. “Darkness” exhibits Tab’s strength as a blues vocalist, with powerful lyrics and blistering guitar leads. The album finishs with “Plareen Man” with Cyril Neville on vocal and percussion and Big Chief Monk on tambourine. Tab and Cyril do a great job swappin’ vocals and again this is live recording at its best. “This record” says Tab “is a lot like my live shows in that it’s not just me making something happen out of nothing- it becomes me just guiding what’s already happening in the moment.” As with all great band leaders and chefs Tab has cooked us up a wonderful mixture of Cajun, blues, rootsy flavors, with tasty ingredients and a few friends to sit and enjoy it with. So get out your mamma’s recipe book and cook up a load a Gumbo and don’t forget to turn on The Sea Saint Sessions to give it that extra kick.
By Jack Sullivan.
**
Tab Benoit- (Vocals, Guitar);
Brian Stoltz- (Vocals, Guitar);
Monk Boudreaux- (Vocals, Tambourine);
Cyril Neville- (Vocals, Percussion);
George Porter- (Guitar, Bass);
Carl Dufrene- (Bass);
Darryl White- (Drums).
**
01. Baby Blue 4:33
02. Boat Launch Baby 5:08
03. Sufferin’ Mind 4:32
04. Hustlin’ Down in New Orleans 5:27
05. Solid Simple Thing 3:49
06. What I Have to Do 5:00
07. Monk’s Blues 5:25
08. Making the Bend 4:13
09. Howlin’ For My Darling 5:35
10. Darkness 4:39
11. Plareen Man 6:04
**


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