Telarc's blues division seems fixated on throwing as many artists together as possible. From tributes to celebrations to collaborations, they seem altogether too intent on the marketing power of known names, often with mixed results. And as an audiophile label, it's occasionally all to obvious that engineers rule the roost, with the 'Telearc sound' overriding any grit, erasing any grease from the grooves.
Occasionally, however, the pairings are inspired; case in point, "Whisky Store," which combines Tab Benoit's swampy cajun stylings with Jimmy Thackery's fiery fretwork. They're backed on this outing by the justly famous Double Trouble rhythm section (Tommy Shannon, bass, Chris Layton, drums, and Reese Wynans on keys). Also along for the ride is Charlie Musselwhite, contributing harp to three of the disc's eleven tracks.
Jimmy Thackery, a founding member of the Nighthawks, has long since established an impeccable solo reputation with several discs of sizzling blues-rock fronting his band, The Drivers. His latest, something of a departure from his previous work, perfectly captured the Memphis sound in tribute to the late Eddie Hinton. Tab Benoit is an iconoclastic Louisiana musician, fiercely independent, whose music is a celebration of life on the bayou. He, too, has several fine solo discs out, and generally favours a leaner, stripped-down sound.
Rather than rehash and repeat what each has done before, they've elected to challenge themselves with bluesy takes on songs that for the most part began life in the rock world; hence Jimmy's run at Bob Dylan's "Leopard Skin Pillbox Hat," the inclusion of Neil Young's wistful "Unknown Legend," and a crack at the Stones's classic "The Last Time." The opener, "I Ain't Broke," is a furious boogie taken at breakneck pace; the title track follows the blues' lyrical conventions, but the beat is just different enough, the bridges just off-centre enough to render it something entirely new. Despite a rather melancholy message, "Away, Away Too Long" has an irressistible bounce to it, while Percy Mayfield's "Strange Things Happen" fairly oozes swampy funk. (I confess I wasn't familiar with the song, and initially took it as a misprint - it's almost identical to "Love Me Or Leave Me." But then the blues has always borrowed freely.) Other tracks sure to please the purists include Tab's own "Nice and Warm" (a reprise of the title tune from his own debut) and "Bad Luck Blues."
That instrumental contributions are of the highest order goes without saying; both Tab and Jimmy are fine vocalists, Jimmy gritty, Tab sounding . . . well, not to stretch a metaphor too far, but 'swampy' is the word that comes to mind.
All in all an excellent outing, for once with lots of dirt and grease left in the mix.
Highly recommended indeed!
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