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Tab Benoit: 'Nothing' Is New Under The Sun

A 43-year-old blues singer and guitarist, Tab Benoit  doesn't seem intimidated by the glorious history of "Nothing Takes the  Place of You."
Courtesy of the artist
A 43-year-old blues singer and guitarist, Tab Benoit doesn't seem intimidated by the glorious history of "Nothing Takes the Place of You."

How do you revisit a song that's been performed beautifully by many soul singers over the years? The tune in question is "Nothing Takes the Place of You," a lover's lament about the woman who walked out on him; in 1967, co-writer Touissant McCall delivered it as a somber dirge, while Brook Benton spun out a silky-smooth version in 1970, the flip side of his "Rainy Night in Georgia" hit. Later on, Al Green stretched it into heartbreak-flavored taffy.

Along comes 43-year-old blues singer and guitarist Tab Benoit, who doesn't seem intimidated by the song's glorious history. He doesn't take many liberties with the words or the melody; he just uses the rasp in his voice and his emphatic diction to give each word its due. When he stops singing, he lets his guitar speak for him, adding blue notes, sweet curlicues that conjure up happy days before the breakup, and hopeful high notes — because who knows? Maybe she'll change her mind, and he can put her pictures back on his wall.

All the while, Ivan Neville's gentle piano triplets sound like the drops of rain that fall on our dejected lover's windowpane. Son of legendary singer Aaron, Ivan Neville also lays down a cloud cover of organ — an instrumental reminder that rhythm-and-blues songs of intense yearning have their roots in the slow-drag songs of the Baptist church, where nothing takes the place of the Lord.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Marc Silver
Marc Silver, who edits NPR's global health blog, has been a reporter and editor for the Baltimore Jewish Times, U.S. News & World Report and National Geographic. He is the author of Breast Cancer Husband: How to Help Your Wife (and Yourself) During Diagnosis, Treatment and Beyond and co-author, with his daughter, Maya Silver, of My Parent Has Cancer and It Really Sucks: Real-Life Advice From Real-Life Teens. The NPR story he co-wrote with Rebecca Davis and Viola Kosome -- 'No Sex For Fish' — won a Sigma Delta Chi award for online reporting from the Society of Professional Journalists.