MUSiC: Giant Steps/The Ole Folks At Home, Taj Mahal, 1969

Released as a double album in vinyl days of yore. Disc one, Giant Steps, is, oversimplifying rather, an electric band blues album, whilst disc two, De Ole Folks At Home, is a solo acoustic ‘roots’ affair.

Recorded/released c. 1969, both albums are brilliant. Taj Mahal’s band at this time features Jesse Ed Davis on lead/rhythm guitar, Gary Gilmore on bass, and Chuck Blackwell on drums. Taj is superb as the band leader, and the guys are simultaneously tight and loose, so to speak. Musically perfect, in that ‘sweet spot’; the Goldilocks zone, neither too little nor too much.

The rootsier solo album.

Both albums mix covers and originals. And some are very trad, esp’ on ‘disc two’, whilst others are interesting adaptations of more modern pieces (Bacon Fat is by Robbie Robertson and Garth Hudson of The Band). The energy of Giant Steps is joyful and infectious. The nostalgic introspection of De Ole Folks is warmly reverential, but also refreshingly diverse and invigoratingly raw and fresh.

Really stunningly good music, of a type you don’t hear enough. So much more refreshing and diverse/eclectic than most stodgy modern blues and blues/rock. Taj Mahal is criminally underrated. Like Ry Cooder, with whom he played in The Rising Sons, he’s both ethnomusicologist and superb performer.

Essential listening for awakened ears/minds!

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