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John Peel OBE, 1939 - 2004

Red Lick Records



Taj Mahal
Bridgeport, CT - February 19, 2011
Review by Kirk Lang -
Photos by Vivian Derouin and Kirk Lang

© Copyright 2011 Vivian Derouin. All Rights Reserved.

To call Taj Mahal a blues musician wouldn’t be wrong. But it wouldn’t exactly be right either.

While Mahal 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.

Early on 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 Feeling.”

© Copyright 2011 Vivian Derouin. All Rights Reserved.“Fishin’ 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' l Blues.

Even when 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.

Another highlight was “Zanzibar,” which Mahal recorded with East African musicians and singers for the 2005 album Mkutano.

© Copyright 2011 Kirk Lang. All Rights Reserved.“One thing you need to know,” said Mahal, “Music is the language of this universe.”

About an 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.

Mahal 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.

© Copyright 2011 Kirk Lang. All Rights Reserved.

Website © Copyright 2000-2011 Alan White. All Rights Reserved.
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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