"Fever for the Bayou"
CD review by Roger-Z (3/24/05)
Tab Benoit first caught my attention when I read that he exclusively plays Fender '72 Thinline Telecaster reissues -- the same guitar I use. As a matter of fact, he carries three of them to each show. That way if he breaks a string and switches guitars, he doesn't have to change any of his amp settings. That single-mindedness floors me. Maybe I should buy two more!
Frankly, I really expected to hear my guitar tone on this album produced by Tab Benoit and David Z. But much to my surprise, we sound nothing alike. My ideal "killer tone" -- a creamy, distorted sustain -- harkens back to David Gilmour (Pink Floyd), Eric Clapton (Cream), Jeff Beck, and Carlos Santana. Mr. Benoit, on the other hand, enjoys a generally clean sound with minimal ring or overdrive. And that poses a major problem for this mostly live, trio recording. The thin guitar sound lacks the glue necessary to hold together the rhythm section of drummer Daryl White and bassist Carl Dufrene -- especially when Mr. Benoit switches to playing lead and the rhythm guitar drops out.
Production issues aside, Mr. Benoit sings with great conviction, passionately pleading and needing his woman. From his good looks on the CD cover, I imagine he must draw a large female audience wherever he plays. Despite the word "Bayou" in the title, the music consists mostly of blues and soul. Highlights include the downhome, funky, "Little Girl Blues," the Buddy Guy song "I Smell a Rat," and the soulful, self-penned "Lost in in Your Lovin'." "Golden Crown" features Big Chief Monk Boudreau on vocals and a wide Cajun beat reminiscent of "Iko, Iko." The title track, written by Tab Benoit, also contains a Louisiana beat that must prove irresistable to the feet in concert.
Although it sounds like the band recorded the album live in the studio, they might have benefited from capturing it live in concert where the cranked up amps, heat, sweat, and audience feedback could have added a needed sense of urgency.