Co-founder of Fada and The Khu, bassist Benoît Lugué set up his first personal sextet in 2015: Cycles. He is surrounded by Denis Guivarc'h on alto saxophone, Olivier Laisney on trumpet, Johan Blanc on trombone and synthesizer, Matthis Pascaud on guitar and Martin Wangermée on drums.
The tour to support 2002's Whiskey Store album featuring guitarists Jimmy Thackery and Tab Benoit is captured here in all of its raging six-string glory. Not just for those who own the studio album, this disc repeats six tracks, but they are overhauled and extended so radically (the title cut is nearly tripled in length to a nine-minute blowout), that it's far from a cash-generating retread. Although the formidable Double Trouble rhythm section stayed home, road tested Thackery's saxist Jimmy Carpenter jumps aboard, as does B-3 keyboardist Ken Faltinson, and both ignite the concert sparks substantially…
Tab Benoit has gone the live route before on his recordings, and he's smart to keep reminding listeners every so often that that's where he's at his best. Which is not to take away from Benoit's studio recordings, all of which – including last year's excellent Power of the Pontchartrain – are admirable showcases for his consistently solid blues guitar chops and gritty vocalizing. As on the last effort, Benoit is backed here by the New Orleans fixture Louisiana's Leroux, who provide the kind of muscular foundation that makes Benoit's funk that much funkier. They're all most at home when churning out a basic boogie like "Muddy Bottom Blues," one of a trio of songs on which Benoit and band are joined by Wet Willie's Jimmy Hall, and "Too Sweet for Me," which spotlights Kim Wilson of the Fabulous Thunderbirds on harp. But on the occasions when they lay low, like "Fever for the Bayou," with guest Jumpin' Johnny Sansome sailing on the accordion, Benoit finds a deeper connection with the soul of New Orleans, a soul that, in this post-Katrina age, we all need to connect with more than ever.
Following the major sales and airplay successes of Benoit's previous GRP outings, Shadows is a more conceptual album, a collection that perfectly fuses the hip-hop grooves introduced on Inner Motion's popular track "M.W.A," with a lush orchestral approach. All without losing sight of the spirited composing and playing style that made him one of smooth jazz's biggest stars. Helping bring Benoit and co-producer Marcel East's chemistry to life are friends old and new to the Benoit studio fold: guitarist Pat Kelley; bassists Neil Stubenhaus, Nathan East, and Jimmy Johnson; saxophonist Michael Paulo; drummers Jeff Porcaro and John Robinson; and percussionists Chris Trujillo, Michael Fisher, and Fattburger's Tommy Aros.
Tab Benoit's latest release on Telarc, Fever for the Bayou, continues in what has become Benoit's signature territory, a funky, ragged blend of Louisiana swamp blues and East Texas guitar, with hints of funk, soul, and country thrown in to give the gumbo just the right spice. If it sounds like a formula, well, Benoit's jagged guitar playing and increasingly soulful vocals make it clear that this is the music he loves, so it hardly matters. He touches a lot of bases here, including an eerie approximation of Elmore James' slide sound on a cover of James' "I Can't Hold Out" (which also features some cool tenor sax work from Jimmy Carpenter), then conjures Buddy Guy on Guy's "I Smell a Rat," fires up on the old Slim Harpo chestnut "Got Love if You Want It," and tears through a wonderfully swampy take on Levon Helm's "Blues So Bad" before ending things with an acoustic version of Clarence Williams' "My Bucket's Got a Hole in It" (made famous by another Williams, Hank Williams Sr.).
Louisiana journeyman swamp rocker Tab Benoit has been churning out an album a year since at least 2002, and between them he stays on the road playing every festival, club, and bar that'll have him. It would seem inevitable that the quality of these studio recordings would decline. But, at least as of 2007's Power of the Pontchartrain, that isn't the case. If anything, this might be the best of a very good lot, as Benoit again teams with Louisiana's Le Roux group (who once backed legend Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown and helped on Benoit's previous release) for another 52-minute wade through muggy yet taut bayou blues. Part of the reason Benoit's recent albums are so strong is that he doesn't insist on playing original material, instead cherry-picking nuggets rearranged to suit his approach. This works particularly well here since he unearths terrific, often obscure material from writers such as Julie Miller (two tracks), David Egan (two others), and even Stephen Stills (a not entirely necessary "For What It's Worth").
On this 2006 release, Tab Benoit, the blues guitarist who throughout his career has embraced virtually every shade of American roots music, reconnects to his earliest and most profound influences with the help of some old friends. The thirteen-track set features Benoit's solid guitar and vocal attack supported by the popular Louisiana band, LeRoux, with the addition of special guest appearances by some of the most seasoned country and Cajun songwriters and musicians of the past three decades: Jim Lauderdale, Billy Joe Shaver and fiddler Waylon Thibodeaux.