Taj Mahal is the closest thing we have to an American griot. His music embraces the raw energy of field hollers, the rent-party gumption of early jazz, the urbane grooves of rhythm and blues, the church-derived cadences of soul music and the rhythms of West Africa, via New Orleans and the Caribbean. Since his first release 50 years ago with the Rising Sons, which he founded with Ry Cooder, Taj has been a cultural force, bringing blues culture to new generations. His legacy is apparent everywhere these days, in the old-time string band sound of the Carolina Chocolate Drops and the blues troubadours Eric Bibb and Corey Harris. A bridge builder by inclination, he’s collaborated with a gloriously eclectic array of artists, from Angelique Kidjo and Ziggy Marley to Los Lobos and Ben Harper (and that was just on the 2008 album Maestro). In recent years he’s often found himself sharing stages with Americana bands like Uncle Tupelo and Wilco, introducing the blues to a generation weaned on hip hop and alternative rock. Equal parts preservationist and visionary, Taj wields his expressive growl of a voice to conjure an era when social gatherings without live music were simply unthinkable.
Taj Mahal vocals, guitar, keyboards
Bill Rich bass
Kester Smith drums