Never one to shy away from his Louisiana roots, this Cajun bluesman gives his most thorough musical exploration of the region yet on his latest CD, Wetlands
. The scratchy guitar licks of "Feel Free" and the fine picking of "Down in the Swamp" stand out, as does the solid cover of late Houstonian Peppermint Harris's standard "I Got Loaded." The autobiographical "When a Cajun Man Gets the Blues," in which Benoit tries to name-check just about every damn city in the Pelican State, is a little annoying, but hell, many a gangsta rapper has made a career out of name-checking homies and hoods, so who are we to begrudge Benoit the same privilege?
The Houma native has always freely mixed his blues with Cajun, zydeco and New Orleans R&B. Vocally, Benoit resembles Delbert McClinton, giving much of his music a roadhouse feel. Although not as inventive a songwriter as fellow young Louisiana bluesman and Telarc Records labelmate Kenny Neal (also in town this week), Benoit has solid chops and has built a loyal Houston following through years of frequent gigging. He even recorded a few albums here back in the '90s on ill-fated Justice Records, so Houston is something of his home away from home.