Born: November 17, 1967 in Baton Rouge LA
Tab Benoit is part of the post-Steve Ray Vaughan generation of bluesmen that emerged during the 1990s, a roster that includes Kenny Wayne Shepherd and Tommy Castro, among others. Benoit brought a different vibe to his blues-infused fretwork, however, adding elements of swamp-rock, country, and Cajun music to his sound. Benoit has toured constantly in support of every new album release, building a loyal audience with blistering live performances that culminated in being named the "B.B. King Entertainer of the Year" in both 2008 and 2012 by members of The Blues Foundation.
Gigging At The Blues Box
Born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and raised in nearby Houma, Tab Benoit learned to play guitar as a teen, listening to Cajun, rock, and country music on the radio. Benoit learned the blues firsthand by hanging out with veteran musicians like Raful Neal (Kenny Neal's father) and Henry Grey at the Blues Box, a Baton Rouge juke-joint owned by guitarist Tabby Thomas. Playing nightly at the club honed Benoit's six-string skills and prompted the guitarist to form his own three-piece band in 1987, performing in the Baton Rouge and New Orleans region.
Benoit was signed by the Houston, Texas based independent label Justice Records, which released his 1992 debut album, Nice and Warm. The effort won Benoit widespread acclaim, his incendiary guitar style compared to legends like Albert Collins, Albert King, and Jimi Hendrix. Benoit would record three more albums for Justice before the label folded, including 1994's What I Live For, the following year's Standing On The Bank, and 1997's Live: Swampland Jam, all of which moved the guitarist to a more prominent blues-rock sound.
Homesick For The Road
Benoit signed with American roots-music label Vanguard Records for his 1999 album, These Blues Are All Mine, the album representing a return to his swamp-blues roots. Vanguard also reissued all four of the guitarist's Justice Records albums on CD. Around this time, Benoit appeared on the Homesick For The Road compilation album, released by Telarc Records, that included Kenny Neal and Debbie Davies. The blues guitar showcase started a relationship between Benoit and Telarc that continues to this day.
Benoit released his label debut Wetlands for Telarc in 2002, the album clearly displaying the guitarist's Louisiana roots with covers of songs by pianist Professor Longhair and zydeco legend Boozoo Chavis. The album's masterful blend of roots-rock, swamp-blues, funk, boogie, and soul music would help define the next decade of Benoit's career, and earn the artist universal acclaim. As a follow-up, Benoit released Whiskey Store, a collaboration with former Nighthawks guitarist Jimmy Thackery and harp player Charlie Musselwhite, later that year.
The Telarc Years
Benoit was exceptionally prolific throughout the 2000s, releasing ten studio and live albums during the decade, including 2003's acclaimed set The Sea Saint Sessions and his Blues Music Award-winning 2005 album Fever For The Bayou, which included guest appearances by New Orleans musical legends Cyril Neville and Big Chief Monk Boudreaux. A fervent environmentalist, Benoit formed the non-profit Voice of the Wetlands in 2003 to promote awareness of wetlands conservation.
Benoit released Voice Of The Wetlands, a benefit album for the organization, in the wake of 2005's Hurricane Katrina that devastated the New Orleans area. The album featured a veritable "who's who" of Louisiana musical talent, including Cyril Neville, Dr. John, and Anders Osborne. Benoit appeared in the 2006 documentary film Hurricane On The Bayou, about the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. That year he released Brother To The Blues, expanding his musical palette with a bit of country twang, recording with Louisiana's LeRoux.
Benoit's 2008 album, Night Train To Nashville, was actually recorded in the Music City, and included guest spots from Wet Willie's Jimmy Hall, harmonica wizard Johnny Sansone, and Kim Wilson of the Fabulous Thunderbirds. In 2011, Benoit collaborated with fellow guitarist Anders Osborne for Medicine, the album becoming the most acclaimed of his career and earning a Blues Music Award for "Contemporary Blues Album of the Year."
Recommended Albums: Tab Benoit's Medicine is the most accomplished album of his lengthy career, and as good a place as any to begin your discovery of this popular and talented bluesman. Both Whiskey Store and Fever For The Bayou are certified winners, but if you're just looking for a first taste of the guitarist, 2012's Legacy: The Best Of Tab Benoit offers fourteen great performances.
Tab Benoit Select Discography
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- Nice and Warm (Justice Records, 1993)
- What I Live For (Justice Records, 1994)
- Standing On The Bank (Justice Records, 1995)
- Live: Swampland Jam (Justice Records, 1997)
- These Blues Are All Mine (Vanguard Records, 1999)
- Homesick For The Road (Telarc Records, 1999)
- Wetlands (Telarc Records, 2002)
- Whiskey Store w/Jimmy Thackery (Telarc Records, 2002)
- The Sea Saint Sessions (Telarc Records, 2003)
- Whiskey Store Live w/Jimmy Thackery (Telarc Records, 2004)
- Fever For The Bayou (Telarc Records, 2005)
- Voice Of The Wetlands (Telarc Records, 2005)
- Brother To The Blues (Telarc Records, 2006)
- Power Of The Pontchartrain (Telarc Records, 2007)
- Night Train To Nashville (Telarc Records, 2008)
- Medicine (Telarc Records, 2011)
- Legacy: The Best Of Tab Benoit (Telarc Records, 2012)