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Tuesday 23 April 2024

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Swinging Live at the Church in Tulsa – Taj Mahal.

Mar 26, 2024

Roots icon Taj Mahal’s brand-new release is ‘Swinging Live at the Church in Tulsa’ recorded in the famed Oklahoma studio that was once the renowned headquarters of Taj Mahal’s friend Leon Russell.  Taj Mahal’s prominence was given a big shove in the back when his cover of Blind Willie McTell’s ‘Statesboro Blues’ was included in the highly influential cut-price CBS sampler ‘The Rock Machine Turns You On’ (1968). Now aged 81, after a long climb to the top of his tree he is a colossus you sit up and listen to. A supreme performer, his aged gravel-strewn baritone contentedly enriched with the passing of the decades – a serial collaborator and an  alchemist whose recipes have introduced multiple genres to the roots music sound. The ten songs on this album reach across styles from blues and reggae, through caribbean and gospel to jazz and Hawaiian slack-key.

Taj’s long-time quartet, Bill Rich (bass), Kester Smith (drums) and Bobby Ingano (guitar/Hawaiian lap steel) are augmented by Rob Ickes (Dobro) and Trey Hensley (guitar/vocals). The classic tracklist includes two wonderful Taj Mahal staples. The single release from the album is ‘Queen Bee’. Affectionately driven along in the fluid finger-picking style of Mississippi John Hurt, Taj is at his best. One of these days some group or soloist is going to make a mess of ‘Corrine, Corrina,’ but this gorgeous, seminal blues seems bombproof so no upsets here – this one is a classic.

With this album all the vital variables come together, a well-seasoned band being pushed by guests, an audience enjoying the event as much as the players, top-rate recording and for the icing on the cake, a classy video to lay eyes and ears on. If I heard this music outside my house, I’d follow it like I used to follow the ice-cream van.

Bob Langstaff.



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