With his 1992 debut, Nice and Warm [Justice JR 1201-2] and its title track hit, Tab Benoit was earned mention as a prospective mainstream rock and blues guitar god. On that album Benoit had the good and bad luck of working with a new label looking to break it big - good because Justice provided him excellent facilities to launch a career and bad because they quickly overextended themselves and so Benoit soon found himself at a crossroads, either try to buy into the whole rock guitar god thing and sell his soul to a mainstream label in hopes thereof, or go back to his roots and play the blues. Fortunately for us he chose the latter path, and after a bit label wandering has spent the last several years at Telarc turning out several discs a year of striped-down, Cajun-blues. This, his most recent album, features Benoit on guitar and vocals backed by his regular road band, Carl Dufrene on bass and Darryl White on drums. The trio take on five songs alone while labelmate Brian Stoltz adds his guitar on other two tracks, George Porter does the same on one song, while Big Chief Monk Boudreaux sings on one tune and then plays on the last track with Cyril Neville sharing vocals with Benoit on a song, one Neville wrote just for this occasion, the occasion being a recording session at Big Easy Recording Studio in New Orleans, a legendary studio known fondly as Sea Saint. The combination of New Orleans, a funky studio, a tight road band and local heros adds up to Benoit's finest and truest album.
The opener, Baby Blue is all syncopated Big Easy blues with room for Benoit and Stoltz to solo. In a more traditional blues vein, Benoit covers the Eddie Jones tune, Sufferin' Mind as well offering up his original, Darkness. Both are the quintessence of tasteful, latenight bluesology. Monk's Blues, Benoit's duet with Monk Boudreaux sounds absolutely live and as if it was composed with the tape running. On the Making the Bend, George Porter adds a bit of rough and tumble that juices the tune up, while the Cyril Neville cut, Plareen Man, concludes the album with a second-line, blues jam that perfectly sums up the loose, funky drive of The Sea Saint Sessions.
Sonically, The Sea Saint Sessions is textbook Telarc. Clean, warm and detailed, the production moves you to New Orleans rather then putting Benoit et al in your room, undoubtedly the right approach with this album.
Sound Quality: 90