Despite having his feet firmly planted in the blues, Mahal’s strength and defining musical trait has been his ability to seamlessly move between genres and styles – from the blues of the Mississippi Delta, to reggae, to Caribbean music, to wherever the waves of his soul take him – always returning with that deep sense of the blues.
Maestro,the first release from Mahal in five years, is a celebration of the eternally upbeat blues man’s long 40-year career in music. Mixing classic Mahal tunes with brand new material and covers, Maestrotravels from musical world to musical world with the help of a diverse roster of all-star guests that accent what the legendary bluesman does as he bops through out his unique musical universe.
The album starts appropriately with “Scratch My Back”, a song made famous by one of Mahal’s earliest idols, Otis Redding. Maestro then slides from the funk groove of “Hello, Josephine” backed by the New Orleans Social Club, to the deep reggae blast of “Black Man, Brown Man” with Ziggy Marley, and then to the Mahal classic “Further on Down the Road” that has Jack Johnson bringing his mellow-surf vibe to the well-known tune. The most interesting track on the album, “Zanzibar”, was co-written with Afro-pop songstress Angelique Kidjo and features Malian kora master (a type of African harp) Toumani Diabate and finds Mahal taking his normal expedition into the unknown with Kidjo and Diabate along for the ride and returning with gold.
And it’s not surprising that Taj Mahal came back with gold; after four decades exploring every realm of the musical world, Taj Mahal has proven that he is the Maestro.
Maestro is out now on Heads Up.