Steeped in swamp and Chicago blues, the Baton Rouge, La., native couldn't avoid the trap set for many young artists in the music industry. To this day, he cringes when thinking about his 1992 debut Nice and Warm.
"At the beginning, when you're 21 years old and sign a deal, the label dictates everything to you," says Benoit. "You really don't have any control of what's going on, even if it's your own songs. It was new to me, but I knew this wasn't the best I had to offer. And after that first album goes out, you realize, 'Man, this thing is out there forever, and it's representing me.'"
Benoit's problem is that he recorded the album twice. The first take featured Louisiana natives playing the blues. His record label then had him re-cut the album, substituting Texas musicians. The results: more rock, less blues. The fallout: For nearly the next decade and a half, the guitarist produced his own material.
With Benoit's confidence at an all-time high, he recently decided to rework his studio approach. The digression began on his last studio effort, 2006's Brother to the Blues, recorded with Louisiana rock/blues act LeRoux. Considering that the album was nominated for a Grammy Award, Benoit decided to again team with LeRoux on his new album, Power of the Pontchartrain.
"It's not something I planned out it just happened we did an album together last year, and we just worked well together," Benoit says. "What I really love in the blues is the really raw stuff. Unpolished, rough edges, the kind of stuff that's hard for the average person to swallow."
Benoit says LeRoux smoothes his rough edges out just a little bit, to make it more palatable to the average listener.
"They've been through the pop world of music, and they understand the blues and the pop side," he says. "And in some kind of way, they fit right in the middle."
Why bother looking for that middle? Well, Benoit acknowledges that 20th-century blues legends are dwindling in number. And he knows that as people look ahead to the future, many hopeful eyes are on him.
"I just feel like if I am going to be in that position, then I have to do these kinds of things to go out there and find new people to bring them in," he says. "I have to find the people who would love this music and aren't exposed to it and try to get them exposed to it."
Power of the Pontchartrain, Benoit believes, does a great job of doing just that.
"It's not polished totally, where it has no element of the blues at all," he says. "I'm still rough around the edges, but maybe I'm riding in a little shinier car."
Thirsty Parrot, 32 S. Tejon St.
Tuesday, Oct. 30, 7 p.m.
Tickets: $20-$40, available at KRCC, 912 N. Weber St., or amusiccompanyinc.com; call 576-5945 for more.