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Taj Mahal’s first solo blues album (1968) blazes onto the ear! From the first blast of the band kicking into ‘Leaving Trunk’, where Taj leads the way with some powerful harp riffs, the enthusiasm and freshness make this blues album still sound exciting today.
Taj Mahal has one of the greatest voices of all blues singers, certainly of the second half of the twentieth century. His harp playing is also first rate. His sense of musical adventure is also evident on this blues album, although he would go further and incorporate styles from all over the world in his later work.
His guitar playing isn’t technically as outstanding, but has a great county blues feel – just check the almost 9 minute “Celebrated Walkin’ Blues”.
Much of the guitar interest is in the incisive lead from Jesse Edwin Davis and the rhythm & mandolin playing from a certain Ry Cooder. Jesse Davis also plays some great piano on a few tracks, notably “Checkin’ Up On My Baby”, where his piano and lead guitar drive together with Taj’s harp to provide relentless solos.
There really isn’t a bad track on this, probably the most accessible and bluesiest of Taj’s output.
My favourite 3 tracks
- Statesboro’ Blues (Willie McTell)
- Checkin’ Up On My Baby (Sonny Boy Williamson)
- Everybody’s Got To Change Sometime (Sleepy John Estes)
Taj Mahal tracks on Youtube
- Statesboro’ Blues
- Spine tingling slide guitar from Jesse Ed Davis, almost certainly, although some have questioned whether the slide is by Taj or Ry. Whatever, the whole band is really tight and rocking on this electric reworking of the Willie McTell classic. Taj’s vocals are magnificent as usual. “Statesboro, Georgia, that is”!
- Celebrated Walkin’ Blues
- Taj sounds relaxed and seems to be improvising a personal slow country blues with voice and slide guitar. Check the lovely mandolin playing from Ry Cooder. Taj’s harp is laid on top as it goes on building until slide and harp round off almost nine minutes of great blues.