TAJ MAHAL – ” The Natch’l Blues ” Classic Albums

Posted: May 17, 2020 in Classic Albums, MUSIC
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Happy birthday to the great Taj Mahal who turns 78 today. Taj is a singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist who has been performing and recording for 50 years. Primarily a Blues singer, he has incorporated elements of world music into his works, including sounds from the Caribbean, Africa, and South Pacific. He formed a group called the Rising Sons in 1964 with Ry Cooder and Jesse Lee Kincaid. A record deal with Columbia Records was unfruitful, perhaps because the group was one of the first interracial bands. Mahal worked with other musicians like Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Buddy Guy, and Lightnin’ Hopkins, before beginning his solo career with the eponymous Taj Mahal long-player in 1968. His follow-up “Natch’l Blues,” became a part of my collection in 1969 – loved the playing on “Corrina,” and “The Cuckoo,”, and wore it out. Taj also performed with The Rolling Stones’ Rock and Roll Circus at the end of 1968.

Taj Mahal’s second album, recorded in the spring and fall of 1968, opens with more stripped-down Delta-style blues in the manner of his debut, but adds a little more amplification (partly courtesy of Al Kooper on organ) before moving into wholly bigger sound on numbers like “She Caught the Katy and Left Me a Mule to Ride” and “The Cuckoo” — the latter, in particular, features crunchy electric and acoustic guitars and Gary Gilmore playing his bass almost like a lead instrument, like a bluesman’s answer to John Entwistle most notable, however, may be “You Don’t Miss Your Water (‘Til Your Well Runs Dry)” and “Ain’t That a Lot of Love,” which offer Taj Mahal working in the realm of soul and treading onto This is particularly notable on “You Don’t Miss Your Water,” which achieves the intensity of a gospel performance and comes complete with a Stax/Volt-style horn arrangement Jesse Ed Davis that sounds more like the real thing than the real thing. “Ain’t That a Lot of Love,” by contrast, is driven by a hard electric guitar sound and a relentless bass part that sounds like a more urgent version of the bassline from the Spencer Davis Group’s “Gimme Some Lovin’.”

He recorded 12 albums in all for Columbia during the 70s and 80s, and also recorded three albums for Warner Brothers. His career stalled afterward, and he moved to Hawaii, where he worked throughout the 80s. He released more albums in the 90s. collaborating with both Eric Clapton and Etta James.
In 1997, he won Best Contemporary Blues album for “Senor Blues” at the Grammy Awards, followed by another Grammy in 2000 for “Shoutin’ in Key.” Mahal has continued to record and perform with the likes of Bonnie Raitt, Joe Walsh, and Sheila E. In 2017, he worked with Keb Mo’ on a joint album TajMo.

Taj Mahal is a major artist who has travelled somewhat under the radar all these years. but make no mistake, he is a gifted musician whose albums are well worth searching out.

“The Cuckoo,” From his first Columbia album “The Natch’l Blues,”  comes this laid back gem from our Taj Mahal.
“You know the cuckoo is pretty bird/But she warble as she fly/But baby you never heard a cuckoo/Until the Fourth of July.”

“Good Morning Miss Brown” – Taj is all the way live as he rolls through the streets of the Big Easy. This guy has to be one of the coolest cats alive with a resume that could stretch down Bourbon Street. Originally from his second album on Columbia, “The Natch’l Blues,” in 1969 it was the beginning of a 50+ year career that is still going strong.

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