I’m sure I’ve mentioned here more than once that I have a strong preference for the “dirtier” end of the blues music spectrum.
Taj Mahal doesn’t fit said bill. His recordings (well, certainly this Grammy-winning 1997 set) are slickly produced, and firmly in the jazz-blues domain. He does pick at a guitar better than most, and his vocal stylings ride the groove perfectly, but it is all a little too ‘big band’ and Cosby Show for me to love it.
I feel like a bit of a scrooge in not embracing this album as a classic. In the end it gets back to my ambivalence to this genre.
Imagine the Commitments fictional setup (without all the pale Irish corniness), and that’s the set-up here. Too much horns, organ and backing vocals on what are pretty standard ‘interpretations’ from THE songbook (including Mahal’s version of Mr Pitiful).
The best track on here is the least augmented, a sparse cover of a Hank Williams tune Mind your own Business:
More tracks like that might win me over to Mahal’s side of the fence.
File under: ¿dónde está la tierra?