In May, Tab Benoit was named the Blues Male Artist of the Year and B.B. King Entertainer of the Year. As you listen to the Louisiana native’s Power Of The Pontchartrain CD, the reasons why become crystal clear. Two things about this disc immediately catch your ear, one being the tremendous guitar licks, the second the soulful vocals of Benoit.
Playing in session with Louisiana’s LeRoux at the Dockside Recording Studios in Maurice, Louisiana, Benoit and Jim Odom form an awesome six strings duet. These two cats’ guitars will tempt you, cajole you and tease you on tracks such as "Good To Ya, Baby." I have grown partial to players like Benoit whose fingers create a warmer vibrant music than usually is produced with a flat pick.
Benoit shared production credits with David Z (Jonny Lang, Prince, Kenny Wayne Shepherd) and the duo dip their musical big toes in the waters of blues rock with "Shelter Me," a tune that is particularly well suited to Benoit’s emotive voice. Paying homage to the second largest salt water lake in America, the song "Power Of The Pontchatrain" is filled with powerful guitar solos that act as a metaphor for the fierce storms that rise from the estuary.
Benoit provides us with a masterful interpretation of Stephen Stills’ "For What It’s Worth." The tune was first dawned early in 1967 and was recorded by Buffalo Springfield (Stills, Neil Young, Jim Messina and Richie Furay). The original release went all the way to number seven on the "Billboard Hot 100" chart. Don’t be surprised if Benoit’s cover equals or betters that mark as a new generation discovers this fabulous piece of music.
One of my favorite tunes on this album is the seventh track "Sac-Au-Lait Fishing." Although it cannot truly be classed as zydeco because both the washboard and accordion are absent, the song is heavily colored with the heritage of early African American and Creol peoples. Benoit and LeRoux pay tribute to another Louisiana native, in this case New Orleans’ favorite son Lonnie Johnson, with their cover of "Somebody’s Got To Go."
"I’m Guilty Of Lovin’ You" is one of the most beautiful love ballads to come across my desk and spin in my player this year. Benoit performs a stirring interpretation of Dave Williams and Mick Parker’s tune, while demonstrating that he also has a softer, gentler side to his vocals. The instrumentalists slow the pace to a high school shuffle waltz. Musically, the tenth track "Addicted" is the antithesis of Robert Palmer’s "Addicted To Love" as Benoit and Louisiana’s LeRoux combine for a mellow testimony of love.
The CD ends on another great blues-rock ballad "One Foot In The Bayou," featuring some outstanding piano chops from Louisiana LeRoux’s Nelson Blanchard. The story chronicles a young woman making the transformation from the bayou to the big city.
The remaining members of Louisiana LeRoux who appear on Power Of The Pontchartrain are Tony Haselden (banjo), the incredible Leon Medica on bass, drummer David Peters and percussionist Mark Duthu. Blanchard also provides backup vocals.