Rams Head On Stage Show Review: Taj Mahal Trio (by Matt Ellis)

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Very few musicians from the 1960s are still touring these days, let alone capable of recreating the sound and sensation that made them famous in the first place.

I was lucky enough to catch Booker T. Jones and Taj Mahal back to back at Rams Head On Stage late last week, and it’s clear both men have been able to maintain their instrumental prowess, charming personalities, and most importantly, their rich and soulful voices over the long, hard years.

Whereas Booker T. brings an effortless cool factor, Taj Mahal sweeps you away to an island beach bonfire under the setting Caribbean sun.   Wearing a tropical-themed, floral-pattern shirt and straw hat, Taj Mahal, and cohorts Bill Rich and Kester Smith, played a number of old favorites to a sold out crowd Friday night.  Taj Mahal was his normal charismatic self, casting goofy glances and colorful comments at the doting audience throughout the evening.

I sat next to WTMD radio personality Sam Gallant, who jokingly remarked before the show that, in one way or another, all of Taj Mahal’s songs are about women with large behinds.  I soon found out how right he was, as Taj sang out, “If I can’t have that heart-shaped booty, I don’t want no skinny booty at all!” to a giddy crowd during “Big Legged Mamas (Are Back In Style Again).”

Taj Mahal’s enthusiasm and sense of fun is utterly contagious, and it’s easy to forget he’s singing the blues.  In his world, the blues convey a different mood, sounding hopeful, and even joyous.  It’s a phenomenon that could only be derived from Taj Mahal’s love of traditional American genres and incorporation of foreign musical styles.

Taj Mahal spent a lifetime mastering the art of the blues, all the while preserving Afro-Caribbean musical influences and learning to play a variety of instruments.  His repertoire of instruments on Friday night alone included a banjo, steel resonator guitar, two different electric acoustic guitars, keyboard, and a ukulele.  And his voice has not aged a day since he first played with Ry Cooder and the Rising Sons nearly 50 years ago.  You can tell he’s still feeling good, and he wants you to feel that same way too.

Unfortunately, it seemed the band was in a rush to leave towards the end of the show and you could see a man flashing the “five minutes” sign during the group’s final few songs.  The trio only managed a one song encore, but at least it was the classic Taj tune, “Lovin’ In My Baby’s Eyes.”

– Matt Ellis

 

 

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