Louisianians of the Year
Eight of Our Favorites Making This State Great
(page 3 of 8)
Music, Environmental Activism
Founder, Voices of the Wetlands All-Stars
Conservationist of the Year - Louisiana Wildlife Federation, 2010
Music that Goes Beyond Entertainment
If creative expression arises from an artist’s sense of place, there may be no better evidence than Tab Benoit. One of the most talented blues-roots musicians and guitarists Louisiana has produced, the Houma native is not only a product of his bayou home but also gives voice to its beauty and culture and has committed himself to preserving it.
Benoit’s distinctive musical style blends blues, rock, Cajun and country into a modern sound often dubbed “swamp pop.” Using his blazing guitar skills and a voice that’s alternately plaintive and gritty, he imbues tunes ranging from rock jams to ballads with energy and emotion.
Among his many accolades, Benoit’s 2006 album, Brother to the Blues, snagged a Grammy nomination, and in 2012 he was the big winner of the 33rd Blues Music Awards, with his album Medicine taking top honors for Contemporary Blues Album and Benoit winning as best Contemporary Male Artist and B.B. King Entertainer of the Year.
Medicine was a collaboration with award-winning songwriter and recording artist Anders Osborne and features New Orleans luminary Ivan Neville and Cajun fiddler Michael Doucet. It’s the sort of team effort that has come to characterize Benoit’s music as well as his activism.
A trained aircraft pilot, Benoit used to fly small planes for oil and pipeline companies, and his frequent flights over coastal areas showed him how rapidly the wetlands were disappearing through erosion caused by rising tides and storms.
“I’d come back to town and talk about it with friends, and they thought I was crazy, but I could see it was happening faster than anybody realized,” he says.
Long before Hurricane Katrina devastated the area in 2005, Benoit founded Voice of the Wetlands, an organization working to save Louisiana’s eroding coastline and marshlands. Later, he decided to use his music to advance the cause.
Enlisting the time and talents of his musician friends, including Osborne, he formed the Voice of the Wetlands All-Stars, a group that lobbies for attention to wetlands loss while performing at music events around the country.
Benoit says their shared effort has strengthened bonds among the musicians. “To tell the truth, we’re more solidly connected than ever before,” he says.
His environmental efforts earned Benoit the Governor’s Award for Conservationist of the Year from the Louisiana Wildlife Federation in 2010 and a starring role in the IMAX motion picture Hurricane on the Bayou, a documentary of Hurricane Katrina’s effects.
Meanwhile, his efforts to articulate images of home through his music continue. “I look at myself as an artist, not just as a musician, and I’m really trying to paint pictures with sound,” he says. “You have to look for ways to get what’s in your heart out through your music. I get a little bit better at it all the time.”