Jeff McCarty, “Step Out” (Whiskey Bayou)

Singer-guitarist Jeff McCarty is Tab Benoit’s discovery, a Houma native with a big expressive voice and guitar skills to match (though they’re no match for the swamp-blues master himself). He can rock as hard as Tab, but his approach to blues-rock is steeped in Southern and classic rock traditions. If you’re looking for new ideas, you won’t find them here, but Jeff’s approach is plenty powerful enough to get across these 10 originals. As for the one cover, his take on Bad Company’s “Live for the Music” is even funkier than the original—and in a very Louisiana way.


Better still is the fact that he’s also got a very strong soul streak; he approaches meat-and-potatoes blues-rock as if it were his own personal source of strength and absolution, a calling but also a rock. It’s why he opens with a utopian vision (“One World, One Life, One People”), titles the song about a troubled relationship “My Soul Will Never Be Free,” and also why his Stax bellyrubber ballad “Love” starts out with the words “Be present in your moment.” It’s why he can switch right up from swamp pop on “Make Our Love Stronger” to “Figure It Out,” which would find itself at home in any funk set at Tipitina’s. His longest, slowest, moodiest number, “Angel Fly,” reveals itself almost immediately to be a farewell benediction. You’ve heard the phrase “I’ve seen heartache and pain” before, but when McCarty sings it, it sounds like you haven’t—and especially when you’re carrying on a tradition, honesty is the acid test.