How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.
Former resident of the Hawaiian island of Kauai, Taj Majal is one of the most versatile bluesmen around, having tackled country blues, R&B, jazz, gospel, reggae and more on his 37 albums. On Sacred Island, Taj teams up with some veteran Hawaiian musicians to blend blues, traditional Hawaiian music and reggae. This is a fine eclectic release on which Mahal's dobro, harp and vocals blend surprisingly well with Hawaiian slack-key guitars, ukelele, and various reed and wind instruments. The latter are played very gracefully by the talented Carlos Andrade. High points include "Coconut Man" (a reworking of Toots Hibbert's ska classic "Monkey Man"), the title cut (a gentle and beautifully arranged instrumental), a lilting version of the Chuck Willis tune "Dupree and Betty," and a fun version of Mahal's popular "Mailbox Blues" (previously recorded under the title "Going Up To The Country, Paint My Mailbox Blue"). Sacred Island is an enjoyable follow-up to Mahal's Grammy-winning Senor Blues.