01 February 2019 (released)
30 January 2019
Personally, I don’t think there has been a better proponent of classic Blues, anywhere, than Taj Mahal (Henry Saint Clair Frederick Jr).
He has been active in the music business for well over 50 years and this set captures some of his earliest material for Columbia when he was at his rawest but also his most ‘pure’ Blues.
The album features his acoustic version of some of the classics – ‘Statesboro Blues’, ‘Dust My Broom’, ‘Frankie & Albert’ – but also a few less familiar numbers such as Sleepy John Estes ‘Leaving Trunk’ and a number of self-written numbers such as ‘Corinna’ & ‘Jellyroll’.
At every point the playing is absolutely brilliant, he had always attracted the best players, and the feel of the music is something more than traditional Blues but a mile away form the shredding and excess of modern day Blues players.
Dip in anywhere and you are struck by just how naturally the songs come over.
Listen to his version of ‘Frankie & Johnny’ where he sings with a cackle in his voice, a simple National steel guitar and a couple of backing singers who only come in at the end of phrases – at the end of the song you have heard a complete story of the relationship, you understand the characters and the whole piece – the very essence of the Blues.
Or listen to his slide work on ‘East Bay Woman’ alongside his vocal – intense doesn’t touch the surface but it is a delight to listen to as well. ‘Dust My Broom’ is raw and unrestrained while ‘Fishin’ Blues’ has a joyous edge to it, very simple but a sheer delight.
Anyone interested in Blues should be aware of Taj Mahal but this material catches him at his earliest and I would suggest deserves a place in any decent collection.