Houma guitarist Tab Benoit is a crazily prolific artist, having dropped an average of an album a year (including 2006's soulful, Grammy-nominated Brother to the Blues) over the course of his career, not to mention the time he spends speaking for the Voice of the Wetlands organization. Night Train to Nashville is his second live album, and his 14th overall. His last studio recording, Power of the Pontchartrain, saw him just about perfecting his well-honed, boot-stomping signature style: Cajun roots, Southern soul and powerhouse electric blues guitar. This recording was made in Nashville the night before Benoit snapped up a pair of awards from the Blues Music Association, but it hardly comes across as a star's session in Music City the night before the big day " and that's a good thing. Backed by Louisiana's LeRoux and joined onstage by Southern-rock legend Jimmy Hall of Wet Willie, Fabulous Thunderbirds' Kim Wilson, Waylon Thibodeaux and Jim Lauderdale, the album comes across as a beer-drinking, two-stepping, slightly rowdy night in a bayou roadhouse with an awesome bar band. The opener, 'Night Train," is a barreling guitar-blues song that leads off the album like a locomotive. The mournful 'Darkness" is a vintage-style, weepy blues waltz, perfect for stumbling slow-dancing after a beer (or five).
Six-hundred thousand Theresa Andersson fans can't be wrong. That was the number of views last month that earned the singer's YouTube video for the track 'Na Na Na" front-page status on the site. It was an oddly mesmerizing demonstration of Andersson's technique of live sampling and looping, barefoot in her kitchen amid a tangle of wires, pedals and instruments. With all the technology, though, her sound remains essentially organic " as if her wisps of sound are whispering through the trees, not turning into pixilated bytes. That vibe continues throughout Hummingbird, Go!'s dozen tracks of gentle, digitized indie folk, as she dips into angelic, Brill Building pop melody " complete with background 'ooh-oohs" " on tracks like 'Birds Fly Away," and drapes lonesome Santo & Johnny-style guitar licks and shadoobie-doo choruses on 'Hi-Low." Andersson, like in the 'Na Na Na" video, recorded this largely as a one-woman show, playing 'all strings and things like Barq's root beer bottles, saw, wine glasses, high-heeled clogs, drums, slide whistle & slide violin," according to the liner notes, with a guest spot here and there. The overall effect " and it's a good one " is Andersson playing alone in a junk shop, weaving noises together with an ethereal voice.
(Rice 'n' Gravy)
The elusive Bobby Charles is a famously strange bird. The known recluse penned several of New Orleans' top R&B classics in the '50s and early '60s " including Fats Domino's iconic 'Walking to New Orleans" " then, for all intents and purposes, dropped completely out of sight in the '70s. After Charles canceled two much-anticipated Jazz Fest performances in '07 and in '08, fans didn't have much hope for a glimpse of him. Earlier this year, though, Charles worked closely with Dr. John, penning six songs for Mac's latest release, The City That Care Forgot, and now he's come through with Homemade Songs, his first release since his 2004 collection of rarities, Last Train to Memphis. The collection sounds exactly like its title: warm, familiar, comforting, classic Charles style with a patina of age that makes it all the more welcoming and easy to settle into. His stalwart guitar man Sonny Landreth drives the record with electric blues licks, and Dr. John returns Charles' favor from earlier this year by adding his funky, idiosyncratic R&B groove to a couple of tracks. Homemade Songs is manna from heaven " or at least south Louisiana " for fans who have gone without for so long. As Bob Dylan says in the liner notes: 'The boy could sing like a bird. He still does, as a matter of fact."