Tab Benoit, Legacy: The Best Of (Telarc Records)

Tab Benoit, Legacy: The Best Of (Telarc Records)

All best-of collections are subjective, leaving listeners to often say to themselves, “I wonder why they left these songs off and included these?” While Legacy is a splendid listen, what does jump out is the profusion of covers here. Regardless of the song, though, what is most appealing throughout is that Tab Benoit keeps the arrangements uncluttered, with the guitar properly upfront.

His version of Buddy Miller’s “Shelter Me,” with a compelling, swampy guitar figure, gets things started. From 2007’s Power of the Pontchartrain, it’s a powerful, haunting choice that had to be inspired by what happened to us in the wake of Katrina. “Night Train” picks up the tempo and it chugs along like an Amtrak locomotive heading towards Memphis, and he and Kenny Neal take the ominous, over-the-top elements out of Screamin’ Jay Hawkins’ “I Put a Spell on You” with splendid results. His version of Buffalo Springfield’s “For What It’s Worth” was also cut for 2007’s Power of the Pontchartrain—after Katrina, during the Bush/Cheney administration—and that context gives the imaginative remake strength.

Blues fans will warm to “Nice and Warm” as it’s a slow blues with a mid-’60s B.B. King feel. The same can’t be said for “The Blues is Here to Stay,” which ends with an unconvincing checklist of blues artists’ names. Benoit displays versatility by tackling the Otis Redding soul ballad “These Arms of Mine” and the country love song “Comin’ on Strong.” Legacy includes a couple of top-notch roadhouse boogies, but we also get a live rendition of “New Orleans Ladies.” Even though Louisiana LeRoux and Jimmy Hall guest on the track, this might be the CDs’ most questionable inclusion.

If you’ve already got a bunch of Benoit’s CDs on your shelf, this release might be redundant. If not, this is a good place to start, and it confirms that Benoit is one of Louisiana’s most important musical resources.

Buy Legacy: The Best of Tab Benoit on iTunes

Listen to Legacy: The Best of Tab Benoit on Spotify