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Taj Mahal: The Blues Is Eternal


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Over the course of his fifty-plus years of active musicology, Taj Mahal has explored all manner of roots music, but he always returns to his main influences in the blues. His delving into reggae and Caribbean styles has not only illuminated the links connecting the genres, but also increasingly honed a feel for sharp musicianship that was ever-so-incisive to begin with on his eponymous debut album in 1968 for Columbia Records. A pair of successive albums from the man born Henry St. Claire Fredericks Jr. suggests in no uncertain terms that not only is it possible to go home again, but doing so can be a means to remain forever young.

Taj Mahal
Stony Plain Records

Fourteen tracks clocking in at just shy of sixty minutes on Savoy is ample demonstration of just how much joy Taj Mahal brings to his musical endeavors, no matter the style. His pleasure is deeply infectious on this collection of classic songs and, with the astute assistance of co-producer John Simon—who worked with The Band and the earliest incarnation of Blood, Sweat & Tears—he brings to life vintage material by Duke Ellington ("Mood Indigo") and George Gershwin ("Lady Be Good"), among others of similar repute. Aided and abetted by a crack band of sympathetic accompanists including, but not limited to, guest vocalist Maria Muldaur on "Baby It's Cold Outside," Mahal and company remind the listener in no uncertain terms of the veracity of that aphorism 'great music is timeless:' the musicians and singers are all reverent and affectionate in their embrace of the songs, and that musicianly bond allows for some dollops of the hearty good humor that is integral to the blues.

The Taj Mahal Sextet
Swingin': Live At The Church In Tulsa
Lightning Rod Records

Live At The Church In Tulsa
is as deceptively easygoing as it is palpably intense. A vivid illustration of how Taj Mahal's eclectic musical adventures preclude merely trotting out a surfeit of shuffles and twelve-bars when he hits stage or studio, he and his ensemble invoke the camaraderie with which the late Leon Russell no doubt infused The Church in Tulsa when he built the recording facility. The Sextet—including his own foursome plus dobro guitar master Rob Ickes and guitarist/vocalist Trey Hensley ♫—bring a winning charm to selections both familiar ("Sitting On Top of the World") and novel ("Betty And Dupree"). Mixed in with such vintage choices are songs of Taj Mahal himself ("Waiting For My Papa To Come Home") and there is a vibrant authority coursing through them all, including an instrumental titled "Twilight In Hawaii," Ten tracks running just over fifty-eight minutes in front of an enthusiastic live audience may not seem anywhere long enough, but that's only one more reason to play Swingin....' repeatedly.

Tracks and Personnel

Savoy Tracks: Stompin' at the Savoy; I'm Just a Lucky So-And-So; Gee Baby Ain't I Good to You; Summertime; Mood Indigo; Is You Is or Is You Ain't My Baby; Do Nothin Till You Hear from Me; Sweet Georgia Brown; Baby It's Cold Outside; Lady Be Good; Baby Won't You Please Come Home; Caldonia; Killer Joe; One for My Baby (And One More for the Road).

Personnel: Taj Mahal: vocals and harmonica; Danny Caron: guitar; John Simon: piano; Maria Muldaur: vocals; Ruth Davies: bass; Leon Joyce, Jr.: Stephens: trumpet; Mike Rinta Trombone; Sheldon Brown: clarinet, tenor sax; Charles McNeal: tenor sax; Lincolne Adler: baritone saxophone; Kristen Strom: flute; Carla Holbrook: background vocals by Leesa Humphrey: background vocals; Charlotte McKinnon: background vocals: Sandy Cressman: background vocals; Sandy Griffith: background vocals; Leah Tysse: background vocals.

Swingin': Live At the Church in Tulsa Tracks: Betty and Dupree; Mailbox Blues; Queen Bee; Lovin' in My Baby's Eyes; Waiting for My Papa to Come Home; Slow Drag; Sitting On Top of the World; Twilight in Hawaii; Corrina; Mean Old World.

Personnel: Taj Mahal: vocals; guitars; banjo; ukulele; piano; Bobby Ingano: Hawaiian lap steel; Fender Stratocaster; Trey Hensley; vocals; acoustic guitar; Rob Ickes: dobro guitar; Bill Rich: bass; Kester Smith: drums.




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