Singer/guitarist (and piano and banjo player, and so on…) Taj Mahal took over the room from note one with his honest, passionate and musically impressive presence. His unique, well-studied, self-created country blues style with a world music touch is captivating.
Performing as a trio, with long-time cohorts Bill Rich on five-string electric bass and Kester Smith on drums, Mahal dedicated a slow, sexy blues number to “the ladies with critical mass in the back,” and with more than a bit of playfulness proceeded to sing about all the ample-sized women he loves, including “your big-leg grandma” and the auntie with the “big, shapely hips. … Man, she was good to go!”
All night long, Mahal and crew were met with calls of “Taj, we love you!” as he continually changed gears through a varied and very satisfying set.
His version of Mississippi John Hurt’s “My Creole Belle,” with his gentle guitar work and vocals that alternated between gravelly Howlin’ Wolf-style and a honey-sweet melodiousness, was precious, and a song “about outlaws,” as Mahal succinctly introduced it, ended up being the traditional “Stagger Lee,” but with a little calypso feel.
After playing a driving, rockin’ blues shuffle, Mahal announced he would next play “something way, way, way different. … This is for the kids.” So began the soft, pretty “Little Brown Dog,” from his 1992 kids’ album, Shake Sugaree, dedicated to the crowd of kids dancing down front.