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November 09, 1995 - Image 24

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The Michigan Daily, 1995-11-09

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10 - The Michigan Daily - Wedt#, eU. - Thursday, November 9, 1995

Il

Tab Benoit develops a
surer hand with the blues

Rappers, comedians
'Snap' to it on new disc

The Associated Press
A guitar player since-age 3 - or at
least a guitar strummer- Tab Benoit
says he never consciously developed
a blues style because for a long time
he didn't really know what the blues
were.
He grew up not far from New Or-
leans, the reputed birthplace of the
blues. But Benoit says that as a kid
growing up in the Gulf Coast city of
Houma, La., the Big Easy made him,
.AWell, uneasy.
"It was always a big, kind of scary
city to us," he said.
The radio was a friendlier window
on the music world.
"We had one radio station, and it
was country," he said. "There was
'no such thing as a blues section in the
record store. Nobody was playing the
blues around me at all."
Hank Williams, George Jones,
Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson
were his inspirations. He heard a lot
of soul, too - James Brown, Ray
Charles and Aretha Franklin. And
here was always the insistent pulse
of Cajun music - of backcountry
. ,Louisiana. Then there came a John
ee Hooker record back there some-
where in his teens, he recalls vaguely,
which made him seek out more "stuff
.along those lines."
Benoit (pronounced ben-WAH)
Slayed in Top 40 bands and with old-
*Js acts re-creating the hits of the
Jeffrey Dinsmor*
: Daily Arts Writer
What is this crap? This Soul Asylum
. crap?"And she starts wondering what it's
'liketobejustlike everyone..."You know
Lo what? Soul Asylum fooled you. While
you're listening to that song and thinking
" it's all about a girl who is different from
the other kids (thanks to the video in
. which Claire Danes miraculously sprouts
Arwings and flies away - didn't that hap-
pen at your junior prom?) the true mean-
ing of the song is hiding in the verses.
You wanna know what "Just Like Ev-
eryone" is really about? It's about a girl
sitting on the bowl, I tell no lies. Listen to
the words, the next time you're cruising
in your Ford. Escort and singing along.
"She walks out to the outhouse." I think
the video would have been much more
interesting if Clare Danes had sprouted
wings on the toilet. How often do you see
STUDENT C
THE MICHIGAN I.

1950s and '60s. He played at wed-
dings and parties. It was in his gigs
with country bands that it started to
become obvious that something was
wrong.
"Every time it was time for me to
do a solo, they would all look at me
real funny, like, 'That's not country
you're playing.' One night, somebody
came up to me and said, 'You got a
nice blues style.' I said, 'Blues style?
What is that?"'
Sometimes blues players are made.
Sometimes, as with Benoit, they just
kind of happen.
Benoit, 28, released his third disc,
"Standing on the Bank," this fall to
critical acclaim. That has helped earn
him radio air time, which in turn has
won Benoit bigger crowds as he con-
tinues to tour incessantly, from sum-
mertime blues festival stages to stuffy
bars.
Benoit's latest release shows he
recognizes that blues packs its big-
gest wallop when its players are
spontaneous. In an era of increas-
ingly slick blues recordings, with
dubs and overdubs buffing out the
players' harder edges and errors,
Benoit and his three-member bands
laid down "Standing on the Bank"
live in the studio, with a now-primi-
tive, two-track recorder.
"The blues ain't a polished thing,
it's not supposed to be," he said. "My
favorite stuff is probably the sloppiest

Bluesman Tab Benoit recently released his fine third album "Standing on the
Bank," recorded in real DIY fashion on a two-track recorder.

stuff, because it's real. There's no fak-
ing it. It was all feel. It was all emo-
tion."
In addition to his touring band,
Benoit recruited Buddy Guy's
topflight rhythm section of Ray
Allison and Greg Rzab for some of
the record's louder moments.
Like most younger bluesmen,
Benoit is short of original material on
"Standing on the Bank," with only
six original songs.
But he chooses his covers well, and
by enlisting Willie Nelson for a duet

on "Rainy Day Blues," Benoit scored
a coup. Nelson's reedy, almost non-
chalant voice and Martin acoustic
guitar blends perfectly with Benoit's
deeper, more earnest vocals and Tele-
caster electric guitar. Benoit's tap-
ping foot provides the track's only
rhythm.
"Rainy Day Blues" is short, it's
almost sweet and, as with other songs
on "Standing on the Bank," it shows
that Benoit understands that blues
should not only roar, but also whis-
per.

By Eugene Bowen
Daily Arts Writer
Yo' mama so country she eat flour
and shit pancakes.
Yo'mama's themeatloafladyinpub-
lic school.
Yo 'mama sofat when somebody said
"haul ass, "she had to make two trips.
Yo' mama got the Holy Ghost and
started doing the tootsie roll.
Yo' mama got a hairy chest going all
the way down to her dick.
Regardless of what you call it -
joning, capping, bagging or playing
the dozens - snapping has been a
part of African-American tradition
since before the United States of
America was even a full 13 colonies.
Since slaves couldn't express their
discontent and anger physically, they
would do so verbally. What grew from
that is now a spectacular contest of
verbal astuteness. Those unfamiliar
with its nuances consider it childish,
but in actuality, snapping expertise
requires an acute familiarity with the
complexities of puns, metaphor,
simile and other linguistical tricks and
a keen, quick wit.
This is exactly what you get in
"Snaps" (Big Beat/Atlantic). "Snaps"
began as two books, each of which
sold over a quarter-million copies.
Later, many were able to see capping
in action when the "Snaps HBO Spe-
cial" and a series of "Snaps" spots for
the "MTV Stop the Violence PSA
Campaign" aired. Now, for the first
time, "Snaps" is available for
stereosystem consumption.
In this CD lies an endless array of
cutdowns, knockouts and, of course,
a healthy dose of mama jokes from
some 40 rappers and comics includ-
ing Biz Markie, Coolio, Ricky Harris,
Miaja, Lords of the Underground and
Freddie Ricks. While the Big Beat
Record claim that no script was used
and all participants' snaps were spon-
taneous is questionable, when con-
sidering the incredible arsenal of torts
used by these performers in rap vid-
eos and stand-up comedy it is very
possible that a great deal of impromptu
caps comprise "Snaps." Nothing and
no one is sacred or spared; pity and
mercy play no role in snapping.
Blacks, whites, Latinos, gays,
people from rural areas, people with
big lips, women with small breasts,
major religious denomination,
Coolio's hair, people with large fore-
heads, gang members, people on wel-
fare, out-of-style clothes and every
family member you can think of are
"Snaps" victims. This makes for a
highly hilarious CD that will have
you in stitches and begging for more.
Or maybe not.
Racial, ethnic, religious and gender
sensibilities are at an all-time high,
and the smallest faux pas could have
anyone-anyone-branded a racist,

r

fascist, sexist or a homophobe. In
light of this, an album of snaps cer-
tainly won't be welcome in every
home. I, too, was initially uncomfort-
able about "Snaps." As an African-
American whose heritage has been
constantly and consistently treated as
a farce in this country, I feared what
type of message I would be sending if
I supported this CD. But, the essence
of humor is that small, yet harshly
biting, vein of truth which sometimes
flows through it. In treating the jokes
presented, not as personal attacks but
as a projection of stereotypical views
- whether true or false - in an envi-

:i

{ .

f

alternative music is fll of

that on MTV?
And this other crap, this Silverchair
crap? Ludicrous. I got a band together
with some of my friends and played an
eighth grade house party, and you know
what? We sounded terrible! We never
sold two million records, I'll tell you that
much. And here comes this fresh faced
bunch offifteen-year-olds, rippingoffmy
shtick, and they captivate not only their
home country of Australia, but the entire
world.I mean, Australia is excusable -
remember Kylie Minogue and Jocko? -
but to sell out shows in the States? Crap.
Silverchair are those guys you saw at the
Nirvana concert who had to keep looking
at their older brothers to make sure they
were moshng properly. They had the hair,
sure, but you never thought they'd be
flinging it around on the pages of Rolling
Stone. I don't trust any kid that age who
doesn't have a couple ofpimples floating

around his forehead.
Collective Soul? You guessed it, crap.
I must say, I liked them much better back
when they called themselves Warrant.
I guess the depressing thing about the
new "alternative" music is that it has no
guts. When Nirvana broke through just
a few short years ago, the face of music
changed. And not to be one of those
hipper-than-thou spouters ofmusic wis-
dom, but I must give credit where credit
is due. Whether Nirvana was success-
ful because of good publicity, the help-
ing hand of MTV, or simply because
they released a great freaking single,
it's all irrelvant.
What's important is that Nirvana's
popularity revitalized rock music,
which, by the end of the '80s, looked to
be dead. Suddenly, the good music lurk-
ing in every quiet kid's stereo was be-
ing played on the airwaves. And for a
while, rock was saved.
But not for long. Once bands caught
on that record companies were willing
to pay big bucks to sign alternative
bands, bad groups began adapting their
music to specifically sound alternative.
Much like the big hair band boom of the
mid-'80s which destroyed whatever
credibility heavy metal had left, the
new alternative bands are composed of
excellent musicians with no ideas.
If you're a fairly proficient musician,
it's not at all difficult to sound like

Nirvana. But it's impossible to be Nir-
vana, especially with lyrics like "People
are dying for no reason at all / It doesn't
matter ifyou're big or small." Roses are
red, violets are blue, Collective Soul
sucks, and Silverchair, too.
Yeah, it's true, Soul Asylum have
been around for a long time. I can't say
I'm familiar with their work before
"Grave Dancer's Union," but ifit sounds
anything like their new stuff, I feel
completely safe in callingit crap. Again,
if it weren't for Nirvana, would Soul
Asylum have ever broken big?,Prob-
ably not. They were on the verge of
bankruptcy before MTV decided to satu-
rate the channel with that missing kids
video. I don't know. Maybe they're
really powerful in concert, or some-
thing. I just don't get it.
At any rate, rock will live on. Al-
though mainstream music is awful
again, the underground still thrives.
There will always be bands that don't
sell a lot of records, bands that the quiet
kids can call their own. The death of
rock has been announced far too many
times in my short life for me to believe
it will ever be true.
In a way, crappy popular music is a
positive thing. After all, without crap,
we wouldn't have any thing to compare
the good stuff with, and everyone in the
world would lookjust like Ralph Nader.
I don't know what that means.

He's just a friend, but Biz Markle
contributes to the new "Snaps" cd.
ronment of friends where there is no
fear of being labeled or castigated,
people will have an easier time di-
gesting "Snaps." Stereotypical views
won't be eliminated until people can
feel comfortable admitting they have
them.
But, in this society, nothing's that
simple. Even while writing this ar-
ticle I am contemplating the hate and
hurt that could well up in some. Would
I support this CD if it were 40 white
comics doing the same? While it does
bring the subject of discriminatior
out in the open, is "Snaps" taking any
strides in alleviating the problem?
Does it even have a responsibility tc
do so? Is "Snaps" perhaps another
projection of so-called "reverse rac-
ism," and does such a thing truly ex-
ist? Is "Snaps" wrong?
I dread the questions that could be
asked, the attacks that could be made
And this time, I won't have a snappy
line or a sarcastic blurb with which tc
answer. I'll be helpless - as are we
all - drowning in the hypocrisy of
trying to be honest and heartfelt in a
country where there are some things
we just don't talk about. And I don'
know what to do.

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