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Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Tab Benoit

Medicine (Telarc Blues)

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If your worst hangover had a voice all its own, it might well echo like that of Tab Benoit. Consider the guitarist's wail on the title track as he throatily moans to "bring me my medicine." Full of pan-fried gristle, boggy humidity and the ulcerous pain of years of too much hot sauce and moonshine, it's as guttural and depraved as anything on-key or this side of Tom Waits.

The Louisiana musician (and fierce defender of his homeland's wetlands) has deployed that voice, along with a grimy, wailing Telecaster tone, for a dozen-plus albums' worth of righteous swamp-blues. Relying on relentless touring and a backbone of heavy Bayou boogie and supple drum-bass grooves, Benoit finds the common ground between Howlin' Wolf and Clifton Chenier.

On Medicine he employs fellow 'Nawlins troubadour Anders Osborne to help on the songwriting duties, with efforts ranging from scorching ("Come and Get It") to spicy ("Mudboat Melissa") to straight pepper-in-the-eyes mournful ("Long Lonely Bayou"). An occasional noodling fiddle adds the appropriate Cajun seasoning, but it's Benoit's from-the-gut delivery that keeps the overall finish crisped and deliciously blackened.


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