"Live Catch" - 2003
1. Black Jack Davey
2. New Hula Blues
3. Good Morning Miss Brown
4. Annie Mae
5. Fishin' Blues
6. Going Up To The Country, Paint My Mailbox Blue
7. Big Blues
8. Creole Belle
10. Stagger Lee
11. Freight Train
12. Sittin' On Top Of The World
13. Blues Ain't Nothin'
14. Lovin' In My Baby's Eyes
"Music is an extension of life"
Taj Mahal has remained a restless spirit. With a forty-year career in the rough climates of the music business and thirty-five years of making records behind him, Mahal is presenting a new live album. His discography has grown into a list of more than three dozen titles and live recordings such as "The Real Thing" (1971) or "An Evening Of Acoustic Music" (1996) have proven to be highlights and cornerstones of his recording career. Taj Mahal remains a passionate performer to this day, no matter what band constellation or personnel he chooses to work with. In this regard, LIVE CATCH is something of a welcome report from his current activites on the live front. Itís a musical statement coming from a working band, a trio outfit with some trusted partners: bass player Bill Rich and drummer Kester Smith. LIVE CATCH was recorded during a series of gigs at Oaklandís famed "Yoshiís" club at the end of 2002.
While working at "Yoshiís", Taj Mahal was presented with yet another award: the "United States Congressional Recognition Award" for a lifetime of enriching the world history of music. But neither this prestigious award nor the grammies he has been collecting in recent years will probably have an effect on the manís continuing emphasis on artistic authenticity, his adventurous spirit or his global musical mind. Taj Mahal is still committed to the spirits who have chosen him as the receiver of the music: "In the end, ultimately, the music plays you, you donít play the music." That pretty much sums up the Mahal attitude as a messenger and mediator.
Taj Mahalís professional recording career started in the latter half of the 1960s. Today, his early records like "Taj Mahal" (1968), "The Natchíl Blues" (1968), "Giant Step" (1969) or "Moí Roots" (1974) are considered classics of an era that was marked by a considerable openness of the industry towards fresh impulses and new developments. Tajís important role as a re-vitalising force and preserver of the country blues traditions cannot be undererstimated. Not only did he present the old blues stylings in an authentic kind of manner, he also fused the blues tradition with music from the Caribbean, Hawaii, folk, jazz, gospel, R & B, and West Africa. This was all done with a pioneering spirit and a lot of courage. He went about this musical journey in order to explore his own ethnicity and roots. In this regard, the blues were and still are just one part of the bigger picture, but itís still the musical style at the center of his art and the main integrating force.
These days Taj Mahal has established a personal pan-African network of muscial styles when it comes to his own sound. This is partly due to his personal and family history. Born as the son of a Jamaican father and a mother from South Carolina, Mahalís work is a meaningful reaffirmation of his own individuality and of individuality in general. In addition to this aspect of confirming and celebrating oneís individuality, the integrative nature of Mahalís art has not changed - despite all of his stylistic twists and turns. Itís not music for purists of any kind, but many recent African-American artists steeped in the blues like Kebí Mo, Guy Davis, Corey Harris and Eric Bibb have gone out of their way to express the immense importance of Taj Mahal as their artistic role model.
LIVE CATCH presents a selection of popular Taj Mahal favorites explored from a new perspective. "Corinna" has been turned into a delightful reggae and Elizabeth Cottonís folkblues standard "Freight Train" is equipped with a calypso groove. Tajís own "LovinĎ In My Babyís Eyes" is being transplanted into the Caribbean as well and the blues appears in many different shadings - from slow blues ("Annie Mae") to ska blues ("Blues Ainít NothinĎ). The wonderful atmosphere at "Yoshiís" has been captured adequately and the mutual dialogue between artist and audience is joyful. LIVE CATCH is simply yet another fine live album from an artist who knows how to project and entertain, no matter what musical format he chooses to work in.
Taj Mahalís vocals and guitar are the center of attention on LIVE CATCH. His different singing voices all crop here and his very own guitar stylings are essential. The latter are never marked by flashy showmanship. Just like the man himself, his guitar playing is about originality and individuality, always staying close to the core of whatís needed. In this regard, his playing harks back to the old country- and folk-blues masters like Mississippi John Hurt and Skip James. Just like them, Mahal has a sound very much his own, his fingerpicking has a special kind of attack. Thereís a sense that hereís a man who really likes to work the strings. The trio format provides all the necessary space for this and thereís a lot of room for the music to breathe. Spontaneous inventions can be met with equally spontanoues reactions. But Taj Mahal is not only a player, heís also a storyteller, linking past, present and future. Bassist Bill Rich puts it this way: "Heís for real ó you canít miss it".
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