As blues albums go, Telarc's Whiskey Store represents the best of all worlds. Combine the swampy, cajun grit of Louisiana-born axemaster Tab Benoit with the fiery, Hendrix-inspired fretwork of Jimmy Thackery, and then back them up with premier blues harpist Charlie Musselwhite and Double Trouble, the thundering rhythm section that helped fuel the brief but meteoric trajectory of Stevie Ray Vaughan. The result is a recording guaranteed to satisfy even the most hardcore and discerning fans of electric blues.
Both Benoit and Thackery are currently riding the success of their respective Telarc albums, Wetlands (CD-83530) and We Got It (CD-83540), both released in 2002. Benoit learned his chops by playing impromptu gigs alongside veterans like Tabby Thomas, Raful Neal and Henry Gray in the fabled Blues Box, a ramshackle club in Baton Rouge. With a style reminiscent of Albert King and Albert Collins, Benoit has recorded a string of critically acclaimed albums over the past ten years, and continues to explore his cajun roots with the release of Wetlands.
Thackery, a Pittsburgh native, has been a blues workhorse since the '70s. Inspired at an early age by Buddy Guy and Jimi Hendrix, Thackery developed a pyrotechnic style of his own as lead guitarist for the Nighthawks, one of the hardest working and most popular blues bands of the '70s and '80s. Since the early '90s, he's fronted a blues power trio called the Drivers, the tight backup unit that joined him on We Got It.
When these two blues journeymen come together, the sparks fly. With its mix of uptempo Chicago shuffles, grinding last-call blues and various other rootsy shades and styles, Whiskey Store stocks a diversity of spirits to accommodate just about every customer. Beginning with Thackery's defiant "I Ain't Broke," the album careens through eleven finely crafted tracks, including Benoit's "Nice and Warm," (a reworked version of the title track from his 1992 debut album on the now-defunct Justice) and Bob Dylan's comical "Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat." Benoit sets up a one-two punch with Neil Young's wistful ballad, "Unknown Legend," followed immediately by the grinding "Bad Luck Blues." Among the final tracks is a searing rendition of the Rolling Stones classic "The Last Time" that reinforces the age-old link between rock and blues, with both guitarists cutting loose and pulling out all the stops.
Along for the ride is veteran blues harpist and Telarc labelmate Charlie Musselwhite, still riding the crest of his newest release, One Night in America. Musselwhite stops into the Whiskey Store to blow some punchy riffs on "Unknown Legend," "Bad Luck Blues" and the swaggering Percy Mayfield composition "Strange Things Happen."
Behind it all is the unmistakable bedrock of bassist Tommy Shannon and drummer Chris Layton, the rock-solid rhythm section better known as Double Trouble, with keyboardist Reese Wynans. Throughout the '80s, Double Trouble laid down the backbeat for Stevie Ray Vaughan on benchmark SRV recordings like Texas Flood, Couldn't Stand the Weather and In Step. More than a decade after Vaughan's untimely death, Double Trouble helps rekindle some of the old fire on Whiskey Store under the leadership of Thackery and Benoit—two guitarists who continue to carry the torch for Vaughan and the countless other past masters who have made the blues the bedrock of American music.
Make a stop at the Whiskey Store and hear some of the best guitar blues on record.