Live: Swampland Jam
The disc opens, fast and furious, with a great one-two punch: the funky stomp of "Let Love Take Control" followed by the madly swingin' zydeco romp, "Ain't Gonna Do It." Benoit's lead work is lean and mean, with tasty rhythm fills that frame his gritty vocals over the tightly focused rhythm section of Doug Therrien and Allyn Robinson. But after a lively solo finger-picking rendition of "Moon Coming Over the Hill," a series of mid-tempo shuffles and slow-burn blues workouts slow the momentum considerably.
Chubby Carrier's spot on Clifton Chenier's "Hot Tamale Baby" manages to light a fire under Benoit, who responds with snappy tempo and liquid fretwork. But, strangely enough, the other guest appearances don't help out that much. Albert Collins' "Too Many Dishes" is rendered efficiently, with Henry Gray providing fine piano work, but it still lacks spark, just as Neal's harmonica doesn't raise the energy level of "Garbage Man." Benoit's duet with Sansone (on harmonica) on the John Lee Hooker classic "Crawling Kingsnake" features fine interplay, while Sansone's accordion work on "Louisiana Style" helps flesh out the tune but fails to ignite it.
All in all, a solid effort, but just shy of transcendent; maybe all the guest artists should have been given more room to blow.
-- Jon Martinez