By Andy J. Gordon
You can really feel good about yourself when you go to a concert that is a fund raiser and the amazing music leaves everyone invigorated. The Mint in Los Angeles continues to book great music, and on this occasion, helped raise awareness about a problem in Louisiana that is really a problem for the entire planet. The Voice of the Wetlands Allstars is a band of great musicians that care deeply about the erosion of the wetlands in southern Louisiana and throughout the Gulf Coast. By playing live shows around the country and drawing attention to the problem, they hope to inspire people to take action. Their show at the Mint on February 10, 2011 was a musical journey that was both informative and enjoyable.
Tab Benoit (www.tabbenoit.com/,) the amazing blues guitarist and vocalist is the founder of the Voice of the Wetlands Allstars. He has been a passionate advocate for the preservation of the wetlands for several years. He formed the organization (www.voiceofthewetlands.org) in 2003 and has appeared on Capitol Hill where he spoke about the urgency of restoring, and the need to preserve the Louisiana wetlands. Benoit enlisted the help of his musical friends for the formation of the band. Each is a renowned artist, with his own band and busy touring schedule. They have close ties to Louisiana and the musical gumbo of New Orleans, so taking a pay cut for a good cause is something each does gladly. The members that played at the Mint show were guitarist/vocalist Anders Osborne (http://www.andersosborne.com/,) drummer Johnny Vidacovich (www.myspace.com/johnnyvidacovich,) percussionist and youngest Neville Brother, Cyril Neville (www.nevilles.com/biography/cyril,) fiddler Waylon Thibodeaux (www.waylont.com,) harmonica and accordion player Johnny Sansone (www.johnnysansone.com,) vocalist Big Chief Monk Boudreaux and bassist Corey Duplechin (www.myspace.com/coreyduplechin,) who replaced the unavailable George Porter Jr. This lineup has so much soul, blues, funk, and bayou pedigree that it was guaranteed to be a memorable show.
Mike Zito (www.mikezito.com,) a fine blues guitarist, opened the show. He brought out Waylon Thibodeaux and Johnny Sansone to help him with a few tunes before ending his short set. The Allstars came out shortly afterwards. Each musician had ample opportunity to shine with distinctive vocals and instrumental highlights. The recurring theme of the songs was the love of Louisiana and sadness about the environmental disasters that have hit the region in recent years. Benoit and Neville shared vocal duties on the moving opener “Don’t Let the Water Wash Us Away.” Neville’s “Louisiana Sunshine” followed. Anders Osborne took over vocals for his haunting “Darkness at the Bottom” and soulful “Louisiana Rain” which featured searing guitar solos from both Osborne and Benoit. Johnny Sansone took over lead vocals on the powerful “Poor Man’s Paradise.”
The band also introduced a few new songs from their recently released album, Box of Pictures. Waylon Thibodeaux sang “Row Row Row” with accordion support from Sansone. Neville called the band a “serious gumbo” before launching into the moving “Blues for New Orleans.” It wasn’t until late in the set that Big Chief Monk Boudreaux made an appearance. He was in full Mardi Gras Indian regalia and led the chant and response standard “Poor Little Joe.” That led into a set closing, rousing version of “Little Liza Jane.” For the encore, Benoit came back out to talk about the problems with the wetlands, and how the band was formed. He played a solo version of his “When a Cajun Man Gets the Blues” and was eventually joined by Thibodeaux on fiddle. They really mixed things up next. Benoit played drums while Mike Zito came back out, accompanied by Sansone on guitar and Duplechin on bass. The show closed with Benoit back on guitar and vocals for the bluesy, zydeco song “Make a Good Gumbo,” from the band’s 1st album Voice of the Wetlands.
The crowd left the show thinking about Benoit’s poignant appeal for each individual to take action in the efforts to preserve the Gulf Coast wetlands. That serious message was closely tied to the joyous music we all had the pleasure of experiencing. The guys really did make a serious gumbo.
Photos courtesy of ©2010 Jim Brock Photography www.eyeonthemusic.com