CD set for release April 22, 2008
Companion DVD, Live in Nashville, set for release later this year
Following the release of Brother to the Blues in the spring of 2006, the Blues Foundation convened in Memphis on May 10, 2007, for their annual Blues Music Awards ceremony and honored guitarist Tab Benoit with the dual awards of B.B. King Entertainer of the Year and Best Contemporary Male Performer of 2006.
For anyone who saw Benoit play a two-night stand in Nashville at The Place On Second Street just prior to the 2007 Blues Music Awards ceremony, the reasons for the accolades were crystal clear. Backed by Louisiana’s LeRoux and a handful of high-profile guest performers representing a range of roots music styles, Benoit reaffirmed his reputation as a force to be reckoned with on the blues landscape in ways that no trophy ever could.
For the millions of fans unable to witness this electrifying performance first-hand, Night Train To Nashville, Benoit’s sixth solo release on Telarc, is the next best thing. The 11-track live recording, set for April 22, 2008, captures the magic and intensity of Benoit in a live setting, joined by his faithful backup unit and New Orleans mainstay, Louisiana’s LeRoux, and a series of guests representing some of the most talented voices on the current blues, Cajun and country scenes: harpist/vocalist Jimmy Hall (Wet Willie), guitarist/vocalist Jim Lauderdale, harpist/accordionist Johnny Sansone, fiddler/washboard player Waylon Thibodeaux and harpist/vocalist and Fabulous Thunderbirds frontman Kim Wilson.
The Nashville shows were just the beginning of an auspicious summer for Benoit, who performed in The Village at Eric Clapton’s 2007 Crossroads Guitar Festival in Chicago in July, alongside such artists as former Doobie Brother Jeff “Skunk” Baxter and country songwriter-guitarist Jedd Hughes.
In addition to the CD, Telarc has assembled a companion DVD, Live in Nashville, featuring intimate footage culled from the same May 2007 performances. The DVD is set for release later in 2008. “All the guests on this record – Kim Wilson and Jimmy Hall and all the rest – make this a lot different from what I normally do on stage every night,” says Benoit. “These aren’t guys who come to every show I play. They’re all legends, and it’s a real honor to have them come and play at my show. And to hear them sing my songs is a really great experience.”
The first stop on Night Train To Nashville is the aptly titled “Night Train,” a churning Hooker-esque number that showcases Benoit’s crunchy fretwork and a vocal attack that can soar from an angry growl to a lonesome wail in a single beat. The immediate followup, “Solid Simple Things,” follows the classic blues shuffle rhythm but derives its innovative edge from guitar work that vacillates between shades of blues and country, and some fine keyboard runs by LeRoux’s Nelson Blanchard.
Further in, Benoit and Kim Wilson trade vocals on the midtempo “Too Sweet for Me,” then trade licks in a loose but highly satisfying instrumental blues jam. One track later, Jim Lauderdale steps in and sharesvocals with Benoit on the plaintive “Moon Comin’ Over the Hill,” a song loaded with New Orleans groove, thanks in large part to the boozy second-line rhythm set up by drummer David Peters. Benoit and Jimmy Hall serve up a soulful rendition of “Rendezvous with the Blues,” with Hall delivering the emotionally charged lyrics along with some stream-of-conscious vocal riffing against Benoit’s tasty guitar accents.
Things take a decidedly Cajun turn when Jumpin’ Johnny Sansone steps in for the minimalist “Fever for the Bayou.” Even without the aid of a rhythm section on this number, Benoit’s guitar riffs and Sansone’s harp accents carry the load and then some, creating an unmistakable bayou groove. This stripped-down approach is equally effective in the down-home blues closer, “Stackolina,” with Benoit on guitar and vocals, Wilson on harp and Waylon Thibodeaux on washboard. In more than one place, the song morphs into a loose and funky three-way instrumental jam – a “three-people-sitting-on-a-porch kind of song,” as Benoit calls it, but one that only seasoned musicians like these can pull off successfully.
If you’ve only heard Tab Benoit’s studio recordings, you’ve only heard half the story. This live recording is a living, breathing thing that honors the musical heritage of his native Louisiana and the surrounding regions. Get onboard, shovel on the coals and listen to what happens when thunder and steel move down the tracks and tunnel deep into the roots of some of America’s greatest music. Catch the Night Train To Nashville and get ready for a high-energy ride.
Tab Benoit’s Night Train To Nashville (CD-83674) is due at retail on April 22, 2008.