Like everything on Memphis Slim's album Goin' Back to Tennessee or Alvin Youngblood Hart's "Tallacatcha" (a Western swing performance worthy of Bob Wills), Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown's 1975 Barclay album Down South in the Bayou Country completely transcends any and all attempts to confine this diverse artist within the artificial parameters of blues or any other preordained category. Consisting mostly of songs written by Hoyt Garrick, Jr., Charles Gressett, and David Craig with additional tunes by J. Loyd and Joe Stampley, this pretty parfait of country & western, Southern rock, cowboy hoedown, and electric Cajun soul music was recorded during February and March 1974 in Bogalusa, LA. Gatemouth, fresh from his tenure as Deputy Sheriff of San Juan County, NM, sounds particularly pleased to be active at the center of a project so completely infused with authentic Southern sensibilities. Perhaps the most satisfying track off of the original album is "Loup Garou." This hoodoo funk ritual with background vocals by Geraldine "Sister Gerry" Richard sounds as if it might have been influenced by Dr. John's "Loop Garoo," which had appeared on that artist's Atco album Remedies in 1970.
Tab Benoit's funky, ragged blend of Louisiana swamp blues and East Texas guitar, with hints of funk, soul, and country thrown in to give the gumbo just the right spice, has served him well since he burst on the scene in the early '90s. Since Benoit hasn't essentially changed his sound since, this collection of sides made up largely from his early releases for Houston-based Justice Records (all of Benoit's Justice albums have been reissued by Vanguard Records in recent years) makes an ideal introduction to what this guy is all about, and although Best of the Bayou Blues covers a five-year span from 1992 to 1997, the tracks all fall together in a completely coherent sequence. Opening with the Benoit original "Voodoo on the Bayou" from 1992's Nice & Warm and running through several originals and some interesting covers (including country-funk takes on Hank Williams' "Jambalaya" and Willie Nelson's "Rainy Day Blues"), this set spotlights Benoit's southern Louisiana take on contemporary blues.