Living Blues - 9-10/02, pp.60,62
"...A rollickin' hour-long party....The Benoit-Thackery team meld into the ultimate bar band near the end of the party..."
Personnel: Jimmy Thackery, Tab Benoit (vocals, guitar); Charlie Musselwhite (harmonica); Reese Wynans (piano, Hammond B-3 organ); Tommy Shannon (bass); Chris Layton (drums).
Recorded at The Studio, Portland, Maine in February 2002. Includes liner notes by Art Tipaldi.
The first summit meeting for these two journeymen roots-blues-rock guitarists is a rousing triumph. On paper, Tab Benoit's less aggressive New Orleans style wouldn't seem to mesh with Jimmy Thackery's boozy, tough, rough and tumble approach. But like Lennon and McCartney, each complements the other. Benoit lets his Delta and Texas-styled roots seep into the proceedings, tempering Thackery's more bombastic leads. Stevie Ray Vaughan's Double Trouble rhythm section and keyboardist Reese Wynans provide dexterous support, as does ace harp master Charlie Musselwhite. Most importantly, this isn't just a bunch of songs built around endless jams. The selections are mostly covers, but the wide range of writers involved -- from Bob Dylan, the Stones, and Neil Young to obscurities from legends like Percy Mayfield and Eddie Jones -- shows the scope of the guitarists' influences. Only on the Benoit-penned slow blues "Nice and Warm" -- reprised from his solo debut and at almost eight minutes the album's longest track -- do the guitar pyrotechnics overwhelm the song. But even here, the musicians are obviously inspired by each other and deliver dazzling solos, each more jaw-dropping than the last. Everything sizzles, yet a mid-album detour into a laid-back version of Neil Young's country-ish ballad "Unknown Legend" works surprisingly well, especially with Musselwhite's poignant harp solo. Jagger/Richards' "The Last Time" gets a rootsy rave-up treatment, as does Dylan's "Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat," and the duo clicks into shuffle mode on Thackery's instrumental Freddie King tribute, "Freddy's Combo." For the most part, the over the top guitar shenanigans this partnership threatens thankfully never materialize, with both six-string benders providing short, succinct, yet scorching solos within the framework of the tunes. Lead vocals are shared, although Benoit is clearly the better singer, with Thackery's rasp getting by on sheer enthusiasm. A treat for fans of both artists as well as a stirring contemporary electric blues album by any yardstick, Whiskey Store successfully joins two gifted guitarists in a session that proves greater than the sum of its very talented parts. ~ Hal Horowitz