Taj Mahal a blues musician wouldn’t be wrong. But it wouldn’t exactly be
can at times sound like he came straight from the Mississippi Delta, he
is also heavily influenced by the music of the Caribbean, Latin America,
West Africa and Hawaii. His decades of material have embraced not only
country blues but also, folk, zydeco, reggae, rhythm and blues, gospel
and calypso. Mahal is one eclectic son of a gun, and no one who paid to
see his Taj Mahal Trio at The Klein Memorial Auditorium on Feb. 19 was
ever in danger of getting bored. In fact, even a child hyped up on
sugar, with attention deficit disorder, would have been able to sit
still. While some artists have a signature sound - you know it’s them
from the first note or the first word - Taj Mahal is not so easily
identifiable, and that’s what makes seeing the 68-year-old multiple
Grammy Award winner such an entertaining experience.
in the hour-and-fifteen-minute set, he treated the crowd to the slow
blues of “Annie Mae,” which began with some serious lead guitar work.
The next tune saw him switch to keyboard for the uptempo “Blues With A
Blues,” a favorite among Taj Majal fans - initially recorded by Henry
“Ragtime Texas” Thomas in the 1920s - was up next. It marked the third
time in three songs Mahal switched instruments, as he went from hollow
body electric guitar to keyboard to acoustic guitar. However, he would
stick to the acoustic for some time, including for “Corinna,” another
fan favorite, that dates back to his second album, 1968's The Natch'
Mahal wasn’t switching instruments, his chameleon-like voice kept things
interesting. He was warm and smooth on “Queen Bee,” - which received the
most applause of the night - yet deep and gravelly on “Strong Man
Holler,” a song off the 2008 album Maestro that Mahal described
as a “spooky blues.” Featuring gargling and moaning, and Mahal smacking
himself when singing about a woman that makes him want to do such, it
was easily the most entertaining performance of the night.
highlight was “Zanzibar,” which Mahal recorded with East African
musicians and singers for the 2005 album Mkutano.
thing you need to know,” said Mahal, “Music is the language of this
hour into the show, Mahal picked up a banjo for three songs, one of
which was “Slow Drag,” another song off Maestro, Mahal’s most
recent album. It is sung from the perspective of a man doing time in
prison who will escape and run away if he gets the chance.
reverted back to his hollow body electric guitar for “The Blues is
Alright,” the show closer. He motioned for the 1,000-plus in attendance
to get out of their seats. They did, and soon after, everyone was also
following Mahal’s lead on some call-and-response singing.
It was an
upbeat night all the way through. Mahal is never one to sing about being
down and out. Then again, he’s not your traditional blues man.
© Copyright 2011 Kirk Lang. All Rights Reserved.
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Text (this page) © Copyright 2011 Kirk Lang. All Rights Reserved.
Photos (this page) © Copyright 2011
Vivian Derouin /
Kirk Lang. All Rights Reserved.
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