Taj Mahal & the Phantom Blues Band
Shoutin' in Key
First Appeared at The Music Box, July 2000, Volume 7, #7
Written by John Metzger
Venerable blues great Taj Mahal has managed to release an overwhelming 39 albums over the course of his 32-year recording career. Itís hard to believe he could still have something more to say ó and yet he does. Last year, he collaborated with West African kora master Toumani Diabate for the critically-acclaimed Kulanjan, and his latest effort Shoutiní in Key was recorded live with his Phantom Blues Band over the course of three nights at The Mint in Los Angeles.
Mahal no doubt keeps things interesting for himself by tackling a variety of disparate projects. Heís a noted singer, songwriter, and composer, and he has worked in movies, television, and on Broadway. In addition, Mahal plays more than 20 instruments, including bass, banjo, guitar, dulcimer, piano, harmonica, and assorted flutes. He has used this knowledge to expand and soak the blues in everything from zydeco to R&B, from West African music to rock, and from Carribean styles to jazz.
With the exception of the reggae-tinged Rain from the Sky and the concluding Sentidos Dulce, Shoutiní in Key is a more straight-forward blues album for Mahal. Nevertheless, it is a potent set that captures the energy and excitement of seeing him perform live. His Ray Charles-infected vocals inject a bit of soul into the Americana roots atmosphere of Evíry Wind (in the River), so itís not really a surprise to hear Mahal also tackle the Percy Mayfield/Ray Charles composition Stranger in My Own Home Town. Naturally, the set also includes Mahal classics like Corrina and Mail Box Blues, but the icing on the cake is the final track Sentidos Dulce. The songís light Latin-jazz fusion of horns, organ, and guitar soars with a sentimental swing thatís truly hard to beat. Ĺ
43rd Annual Grammy Award Winner:
Contemporary Blues Album of the Year
Shoutin' in Key is available from Barnes & Noble.
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2000 The Music Box