Tab Benoit (left) and Cyril Neville were part of the Voice of the Wetlands All-Stars that performed at the Birchmere on Tuesday. (All photos by Josh Sisk/FTWP)

Benoit spoke about the group’s mission to help preserve and protect coastal wetlands, but only briefly, as if aware that the concert’s pacing was tricky enough given the talent assembled. Besides Benoit, the show generously showcased a Louisiana-seasoned front line featuring guitarist Anders Osborne, percussionist Cyril Neville, fiddler Waylon Thibodeaux, and accordionist/harmonicist Johnny Sansone. Big Chief Monk Boudreaux, who wore a MardiGras Indian costume crowned by a towering and brightly plumed headdress, joined the band’s vocal ranks late in the show.


Johnny Sansone (harmonica) and Tab Benoit.

The tunes were drawn from several places — the band’s recordings, solo CDs and traditional sources — but what the All-Stars played wasn’t nearly as entertaining as how they played it. The rhythm section was unflagging, with blues shuffles giving way to slippery grooves and sharply syncopated second-line struts. Benoit mostly played fluid, single note lines, while Osborne emphasized jarring slide guitar riffs. Now and then, though, the two musicians fell into elegant sync, matching bent note for bent note and producing streaming harmonies. Switching back and forth from harps to squeeze box, Sansone bridged southern roadhouse shouts with zydeco dancehall thrust, while Thibodeaux’s electric fiddle vibrantly amplified early string band and Cajun sounds.


Cyril Neville (vocals, percussion) and Anders Osborne (guitar).