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Tab Benoit - Night Train to Nashville
Telarc records

What do you get when you mix New Orleans with the Cajun swampland, the Mississippi Delta, a bit of Beale Street and even a touch of Nashville?  How about the newest CD from rising blues star Tab Benoit, Night Train to Nashville.  Benoit and his Louisiana’s Leroux band recorded the 11-track CD live over two night at Nashville’s The Place On Second Street, just before picking up a couple of awards at the 2007 Blues Music Association confab in Music City.

Nine of the 11 cuts are Benoit originals, co-produced by David “Z” Rivkin, who also produced for Prince, Billy Idol and Etta James, among others.  These cuts reflect not only the Houma, Louisiana, influences of Benoit, but also those of his bandmates, guitarist Jim Odom, Tony Haselden on banjo, Nelson Blanchard behind the keys, bassist Leon Medica, David Peters on drums and percussionist Mark Duthu.

Here’s a review of what I discovered when I cued up Night Train To Nashville: 

The disk kicks off with the title cut, a pure bluser highlighted by some John Lee Hooker style gravely lyrics.  Next up is “Solid Simple Things,”  with it’s country-flavored Nashville-style picking.  “Darkness” is a raw sampling of old fashion Delta blues, dominated by some stinging guitar work.

With the fourth cut, “Too Sweet for Me,” Benoit share vocals with Kim Wilson of the Fabulous Thunderbirds, before bouncing some stylish guitar licks off Wilson’s harp.

“Moon Comin’ Over the Hill” starts slowly but quickly builds to a bouncy dance beat.  Some nice tremolo guitar work enhances Benoit’s vocal duet with Jim Lauderdale.  Benoit spices up the next cut, “Lost in your Lovin’,” a rowdy Cajun original that features some peppery guitar work and some swampy down-home lyrics.

Wet Willie’s Jimmy Hall grabs the microphone for his own “Rendezvous With The Blues,” a song that will remind many of both the vocal and guitar stylings of B.B. King and his often pained lyrics.  This one probably works well live—or in the bedroom—but on disk it’s a bit repetitious.

Jumpin’ Johnny Sansone adds his virtuoso harmonica work to Benoit’s “Fever For The Bayou,” a rockabilly-style song Benoit accurately describes as a “three people sitting on the porch kind of song.” 

Organist Nelson Blanchard stands out on “”New Orleans Ladies,” a song that appears to have been heavily--but not negatively--influenced by the late ‘60’s psychedelic band, Procol Harum and their “Whiter Shade of Pale.”  Following is “Muddy Bottom Blues,” a gritty night moves blues number that reflects the heat and humidity of the south Louisiana swamplands.

Benoit wraps up with “Stackolina.”  I’m not sure who—or what—Stackolina is (girl, dog, stack of gumbo?), but with Waylon Thibodeaux’ washboard undercurrent and Kim Wilson’s choo-choo train harp, it’s a fun song to wrap up an excellent effort.

With great songs, a great band and some great guest artists, this one just about has it all.   But, it would have been nice to add a guest zydeco player, especially on “Fever For the Bayou.”

One and seven-eighths Jax bottle up for Night Train to Nashville

Reviewer, journalist and educator Rob Paullin has worked and sampled the blues everywhere from Chicago, New Orleans and Memphis to Kyiv, Beijing and Venice. 

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