Record Review - 3 August 28 2002

What happens when two hotshot electric blues guitar slingers butt heads and strings for an album backed by Stevie Ray Vaughan’s group? If you think the answer is endless solos with each louder and more frantic than the last, you’d be right — most of the time.

But fortunately, that’s not the case on the majority of this summit between road toughened ex-Nighthawk Jimmy Thackery and the slightly more laid-back approach of Louisiana’s Tab Benoit. Even though the session features a predictably substantial share of sizzling hot licks, there’s an unexpected attention to song craft and arrangements that makes this more enjoyable than just a fret-burning duel.

It’s a rare release that joins the Stones’ “The Last Time” with obscure Neil Young and Bob Dylan tunes, as well as tracks from lesser-known blues masters like Guitar Slim and Percy Mayfield. The guitarists’ distinctive styles are easy to tell apart — Thackery’s beefier licks spar perfectly with Benoit’s jazzier swampy picking — and it’s also clear the two are having a blast charging through this material. Of course, it helps having a great band, occasionally aided by harmonica ace Charlie Musselwhite, urging them on.

Vocals and solos are split about equally, so there’s no clear winner in this contest of six-string scorchers. Just as well, since the listener gets treated to two talented, relatively ego-free pros as they bounce off each other. What might have been double trouble instead results in twice the fun.

Jimmy Thackery and Tab Benoit play the Harvest Moon Bluesfest Sun., Sept. 1. Benoit also plays the Blue Raccoon Sat., Aug. 31 and Thackery plays the Mission Music Festival Fri., Sept. 6.