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Review: Tab Benoit, Medicine

Tab Benoit
Medicine
[Telarc (2011)]

You had to suspect that artist-to-artist collaborations weren’t far behind when Louisiana bluesman Tab Benoit formed the Voice of the Wetlands Allstars a few years back with such contemporaries as Anders Osborne, George Porter, Cyril Neville, Johnnie Sansone, and Waylon Thibodeaux. On Benoit’s tenth Telarc release, fellow Wetlands Allstar Osborne plays a big role by contributing seven co-written originals and most of the rhythm parts that never step on Benoit’s ferocious leads.

Stylistically, there’s a nod to Louisiana’s indigenous lifestyle and music with the blitzin’ jitterbug-inviting “Come And Get It” and Benoit’s own take on swamp pop, the slow, crunchy “Nothing Takes The Place of You.” BeauSoliel’s Michael Doucet joins Benoit on three Cajun-esque tracks, most notably a rollicking English/Cajun French bilingual rendition of Augie Meyer’s “Can You See” and the country blues of “Long Lonely Bayou,” where the bayou must seem like a forlorn, desolate place when one’s all alone.

Yet, it’s not entirely another Benoit party album or a showcase of driving, greasy licks. The song that’s the most meaningful is the provocative “A Whole Lotta Soul,” which was inspired by socially irresponsible oil companies damaging the bayous in a self-serving quest for profits. The third and fourth verses are particularly moving and are worth the price of admission alone:

Maybe we should move the mountains
Maybe we should drain the sea
And wash away the dessert
That makes no sense to me
Looking in from the outside
It sure don’t look that hard
Now tell me how you gonna feel
When I come digging up your backyard

—Dan Willging (Denver, CO)

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