Guitarist-singer Tab Benoit is the real deal. Born and raised on the Louisiana bayou, this self-proclaimed “new kid from the old school” has been the standard bearer for a new generation of Cajun blues musicians – a traditionalist and an innovator at the same time, grafting elements of rock and soul to the indigenous sounds of the bayou. And if dedicating his life to his musical roots weren’t enough, Benoit has also been a tireless crusader in recent years – prior to the devastation of hurricane Katrina but even more so since – for the preservation of the rapidly vanishing wetlands of his native region.
Benoit unleashes his passion for his homeland and its music in Power of the Pontchartrain, a new Telarc recording that he co-produced with veteran producer David Z (Jonny Lang, Kenny Wayne Shepherd and Prince). Also on board for the 11-track ride is LeRoux, the enduring Louisiana-based blues/rock/pop collective that has been a regional mainstay since the late ‘70s.
The set opens with the swampy “Don’t Make No Sense,” a track that wastes no time showcasing Benoit’s richly layered but always straightforward guitar chops. Nelson Blanchard’s subtle keyboard lines work in perfect tandem with the guitarist’s gritty fretwork. This same guitar-keyboard counterpoint is evident again in the title track. “Power of the Pontchartrain” is an eerie, shimmering ode to the mystical power of the massive lake just north of New Orleans and the dark legends that have evolved around it over the generations.
Benoit takes the Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young classic, “For What It’s Worth,” and makes it his own with an unmistakably Cajun edge. Listen closely here for some new lyrics that suggest a note of anger at an economic and social system that has forsaken the bayou underclass.