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Tab Benoit: 'Voice of the Wetlands'


Blues guitarist Tab Benoit was looking ahead last January when he brought together some legendary Louisiana musicians for a recording session aimed at publicizing the dangerous erosion of the wetlands. It was aimed at warning the world of the devastation a major hurricane would visit upon southern Louisiana now that marshes and swamps weren't there to slow the storm down. Tab Benoit became aware of the problem after seeing the erosion around his home in Houma, Louisiana.

Mr. TAB BENOIT (Blues Guitarist): And I just felt like helpless and--I mean, my backyard is marsh, and it washes away every day, part of it at least, and the statistic is that the Louisiana coastline loses to coastal erosion 30 square miles a year. I mean, that's staggering.

(Soundbite of music)

MONTAGNE: The Voice of the Wetlands All-Stars are finally out with their CD. Tab Benoit's now on tour with the band. I spoke to him when they were in Aspen. Meant to sound the alarm, the songs now serve as a poignant postscript to Katrina.

(Soundbite of music)

Unidentified Man #1: (Singing) Hooking up my fishing line, heading for my boat.

MONTAGNE: It's fascinating that songs about Louisiana often have to do with rainstorms, winds, floods. Your first song on this CD is called "Bayou Breeze," which is the loveliest version of weather.

Mr. BENOIT: It could be, you know? There's a lot of different kinds of breeze, you know? I mean, a hurricane is a breeze in a big way, you know?

(Soundbite of music)

Unidentified Man #1: (Singing) Don't let the water...

Backup Singers: (Singing) Don't let the water...

Unidentified Man #1: (Singing) ...wash us away.

Backup Signers: (Singing) ...wash us away.

Unidentified Man #1: (Singing) Don't let the water...

Backup Singers: (Singing) Don't let the water...

Unidentified Man #1: (Singing) ...wash us away. Yeah.

MONTAGNE: How hard do you think your fellow artists have been hit?

Mr. BENOIT: Well, this is--right now at this moment, I'm in Aspen, Colorado, playing with Cyril Neville, Anders Osborne, Jumpin' Johnny, Waylon Thibodeaux and Big Chief Monk Bourdeaux. They're all here with me. Four out of those five guys lost their home. I live an hour south-southwest of New Orleans and, you know, water came up all around my house and I live a good, you know, 20, 25 miles in from the Gulf of Mexico.

MONTAGNE: Is there a particular tune on this CD that, you know, if you had to pick one to play to give a feel, which one would it be?

Mr. BENOIT: It's hard to say. I mean, the song "We Ain't Gonna Lose No More" that Dr. John sings really hits some heavy-duty points, you know, about what was happening and how we feel about it. I mean, you know, we're mad, you know? We're upset.

(Soundbite of "We Ain't Gonna Lose No More")

DR. JOHN: (Singing) Every day we lose a little more of the place we call home. Dumb mistakes that Army Corps are really costing us half our shore.

Mr. BENOIT: Everybody's been talking about this is south Louisiana, and for it to be sprung up on everybody like it was a big surprise, it just kills me, you know, 'cause I know that this was not a surprise. It didn't surprise me, I tell you that, but, you know, there's also the song, "Louisiana Sunshine," which is a really beautiful song written by the late Rusty Kershaw and Cyril Neville.

(Soundbite of "Louisiana Sunshine")

Unidentified Man #2: (Singing) Wake up in the morning and look out across the lake at the Louisiana sunlight. It'll take your breath away.

Mr. BENOIT: So, I mean, there's a lot of different sides to the songs on the record, you know? There's the ones where we're mad and we're trying to get our voice heard, and then there's times where we just want to, you know, kind of soak up the atmosphere of the area where we live and the beauty of it and sit on the porch and sip on some coffee and watch the sun rise, you know?

MONTAGNE: Tab Benoit, thank you very much for talking with us.

Mr. BENOIT: Thank you.

(Soundbite of "Louisiana Sunshine")

Backup Singers: (Singing) Louisiana sunshine.

Unidentified Man #2: Come on, shine on me. Shine on me.

MONTAGNE: That's blues guitarist Tab Benoit talking about the new CD "Voice of the Wetlands."

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.

(Soundbite of "Louisiana Sunshine")

Unidentified Man #2: (Singing) Ooh, I'd rather be sitting in Louisiana, the place of my dreams. Louisiana sunshine, shine on me. Let it shine on me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.