The Sea Saint Sessions
Tab Benoit improves with each album. While other guitarists move away from their strengths to experiment with new effects, resulting in an over-polished, over-produced sound, Benoit has instead focused on improving his technique. The result is an album that is still as earthy and rough as his previous work, with more impressive licks and chord progressions. He still likes to record live in the studio, to keep the music as close to the audience as possible.
With The Sea Saint Sessions, Benoit explores several different musical styles. We get, in addition to his trademark blues, a trip through the Delta with shots of Cajun, jazz, soul and juke joint boogie-woogie. From the bluesy hook of “Baby Blue” that evokes comparisons to B.B. King and Eric Clapton, to the jumpy New Orleans beat of “Boat Launch Baby,” Benoit then slows it down for the ache of “Sufferin’ Mind” and “Darkness.” While Benoit is backed by his usual band of Carl Dufrene on bass and Darryl White on drums, he gets several helping hands on The Sea Saint Sessions. Brian Stoltz adds guitar and vocals to a couple of tracks. Monk Boudreaux provides vocals and tambourine. George Porter adds bass and guitar to a track. And, Cyril Neville lends his vocals and percussion to the closing track.
The album isn’t perfect. Some of the songs have trouble finishing. The title or another line will be repeated too many times before the final fade-out to the point of irritation (i.e. “Hustlin’ Down in New Orleans” and “Plareen Man”). And, ironically, some of the hooks are so infectious that they stay with you for too long after the song ends. So much so that “Boat Launch Baby” is still playing in your head when the album is halfway over and you notice that you’ve missed several songs. However, these are minor concerns for an otherwise excellent album.
This is swampy delta music at its finest. If you are tired of glitzy, radio-friendly pop, and want to listen to some real musicians playing some real music, you could do a lot worse than giving The Sea Saint Sessions a listen. Allow Tab Benoit to take you on a guitar-driven tour of the South and you may never want to return.