This recording burst out on the first track, “Bloom”, with a driving acoustic guitars out front, then the strong clear vocal wraps around the lyric exclaiming as the blues always does, a nod to the opposite sex. The comping guitar riffs, as the lead guitar are strong with shades of the blues and rock. As a player you know you’ve had a good listen when you want to pick your axe and join in or find a groove as deep to emulate. Benoit lays back with the second track, continuing the acoustic bed of acoustic guitar, then the rhythm section drives this lament called, “ Don’t Hate Me” but allows Benoit’s lyric and vocal to clearly speak. The lead guitar once again never over powers the main riff, it is as it should be, the spice to the track.
The production and mix on this work is a consistent portion of the work, Benoit’s vocals and lyrical content are important to each track, care was given to this aspect of his work. Benoit & Blake Harkins co-produced the work at Lost & Found Studios, in West Seattle. Benoit is no novice at his craft and has assembled lengthy relationships with those he records with.
For the past twenty years he has used the same supporting players on his projects, his mates, sidemen, collaborators are tight and a testament to the vested time put into the sound as a unit. Benoit’s rhythm section is Tige Decoster holding it all down on bass, Dan Weber on solid as well as tasty drums while Hugh Sutton is behind the keyboards. Benoit’s guitar work drives or lays the foundations for the production and tunes. Benoit’s lead work is very tasty, mature and compliments never distracts from the rest of the production.
“Ragpickers” the title tune of the disc is Benoit’s break out track from the first two tracks with a great shuffle feel. Benoit’s vocal work is very strong on this tune, but the lyrical content is so strong it’s difficult to say which is really shines brighter. The arrangements are all tasty, but this track breaks away, this tune illuminates a master in his element. Tunes like this just don’t come along every day.
Benoit does not rest on his laurels, each track has a different feel, based in the blues. Some of it takes me back to the hey day of several artists, but pigeon holing this artist would be a mistake. Sutton’s work on fourth track sets up the tune, the lead guitar is like butter, it just flows. These are some tasty players working behind Benoit’s tales and solid vocal work.
Had a brief conversation with the artist and he said his next project was going to be a bit more Folk/Americana, I can tell from his acoustic work that this would be a natural path for him to take, but this cat wraps around the blues so well, one can only hope that he puts this thinking cap on again. The acoustic guitar work in “Black Bag Blues” is as smooth and cool as any player I have ever listened to and worth the price of admission alone.
Benoit’s take on the Delta influence leaps out on the following track as does his time spent cultivating lyrical acrobatic work from the likes of Dylan and other contemporary artists. “But Not You”, would be another argument for Benoit to come back to this well and drink again, the genre needs writers and players who take two art forms and creates a third. Few do it these day, the formula is found and then it’s variations on a theme. This work is dripping with authenticity.
Original work is rare these days, Benoit creates vibes that are at least ten miles thick. He synthesizes blues, rock and pop, coming out the other side with a profound work, that could be as commercial as the day is long. This artist excels at lyrical content, his vocals are in the pocket, the players support Benoit’s work with reverence, the mix, production and mastering are as accessible as this artists heart and soul are. Good work!
Review by Christopher Brant Anderson