Taj Mahal | Mayne Stage | Blues, Gospel, and R&B | Chicago Reader

Taj Mahal Recommended All Ages Early Warnings (Music) Soundboard Critics' Picks

When: Fri., Oct. 10 and Sat., Oct. 11, 7:30 & 10 p.m. 2008

Taj Mahal got his start in the 60s playing folk blues, but through the years he’s played (among other things) gutbucket funk, blues rock, reggae, New Orleans second-line strut, and township-flavored world-music fusions—at times it’s sounded like he’s trying to be a one-man jukebox of the African diaspora. But when he’s on target, he combines deep-running musicological expertise and good-timey exuberance in a way that’s both infectious and inspiring. On his latest, Maestro (Heads Up), billed as a celebration of his 40-year recording career, he charges through fat-bottomed funk blues (“Scratch My Back”), lilting Afropop (“Zanzibar”), rocked-out blooze raunch (“Dust Me Down”), bass-heavy postwar Chicago blues (“TV Mama”), and banjo-laced Storyville hokum (“Slow Drag”). Taj Mahal’s showy vocals occasionally get ponderous, and his band sometimes slogs when it should shuffle, but on the whole Maestro is proof he still has an impressive talent for mining diamonds from well-worked earth. —David Whiteis

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