Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Taj Mahal - Maestro (Telarc, 2008)

There is a lot more than the blues to the music of guitarist, singer and songster Taj Mahal. he explores all aspects of roots music from blues to jazz, reggae and beyond. He does a little bit of everything on his most recent disc, aided and abetted by a raft of guest stars, but it is the basic gutbucket blues that garners the most success. Taj and Los Lobos reinvent the Elmore James/ Joe Turner classic "TV Mama" for the digital age, with a stomping feel and some stinging guitar. Ben Harper and Big Jack Johnson are in their element sitting in on "Dust Me Down" and "Further on Down the Road" respectively. Mahal doesn't need any guests to shine just as brightly on his own either. With his Phantom Blues Band in tow, he jumps through "Scratch My Back" and grinds hard on the slow groove of "Strong Man Holler." Some of the reggae and Caribbean music doesn't quite reach such lofty heights, with the collaboration with Ziggy Marley "Black Man, Brown Man" sounding a little flat, the ethnic stew of "Zanzibar" never quite takes flight. But these are minor quibbles and overall, the album is quite successful.

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