"This record is a lot like my live shows in that it's not just me making something happen out of nothing. It becomes me just guiding what's already happening in the moment."—Tab Benoit
For guitarist Tab Benoit, the best moments in the blues are the ones that happen spontaneously, when talented musicians come together and discover that satisfying groove that transcends notes on a page or predetermined arrangements.
Sea Saint Sessions captures some of those spontaneous moments in a collection of eleven punchy, straightforward tracks recorded at Big Easy Recording Studio in New Orleans, better known among musicians in the region as Sea Saint Studio.
"A lot of the songs on this album were written just prior to the session, and some were actually written at the session," says Benoit. "I like that style of recording—leaving the music open to be a part of it and not coming in with everything so planned out and rehearsed that it can only come out one way."
Tab and his regular crew of bassist Carl Dufrene and drummer Darryl White make a satisfying sound all their own, but the bar is raised even higher on Sea Saint Sessions by guest appearances by vocalists/percussionists Big Chief Monk Boudreaux and Cyril Neville, guitarist Brian Stoltz and guitarist/bassist George Porter—all of whom pick up a songwriting credit or two in this set.
The album launches with a catchy riff and backbeat that serve as the framework for the fiery love song, "Baby Blue," followed immediately by the cajun-flavored ode, "Boat Launch Baby." A couple tracks later, "Hustlin' Down in New Orleans," featuring Stoltz on guitar and vocals, is a bit more laid back and easygoing, while "Monk's Blues" is a loosely constructed and emotionally charged duet with Boudreaux on lead vocals and Benoit echoing each phrase.
The back stretch features "Making the Bend," a Benoit/Porter offering that showcases Benoit's clean, crisp lead guitar work, as does the punchy rendition of the Howlin' Wolf/Willie Dixon chestnut, "Howlin' for My Darlin'." The album reaches its satisfying coda with the syncopated and suggestive Cyril Neville composition, "Plareen Man," with Neville and Benoit sharing vocals.
Sea Saint Sessions is the highly anticipated followup to Wetlands, Benoit's critically acclaimed Telarc debut in 2002 that enabled the artist to finally record the album he'd always wanted to make—straightahead cajun blues steeped in the bayou traditions of his native Louisiana. Benoit further cemented his standing in the contemporary blues pantheon last year with Whiskey Store, his highly praised collaborative recording with fellow axemaster and Telarc labelmate Jimmy Thackery. Both albums, released just a few months apart, made 2002 an exceptional year for Benoit and his music.
Check out Sea Saint Sessions and hear why 2003 promises to be just as good.