Taj Mahal and Keb’ Mo’ Team Up For Uplifting Blues Album

What do you get when Taj Mahal and Keb’ Mo’ get together? TajMo and a great dose of beautiful music!

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Unless I know of a newly released album that interests me, I usually don’t bother browsing the “new music” section in iTunes. Well, this morning I did so anyway and came across TajMo, a new album from Taj Mahal and Keb’ Mo’. And it’s a true gem!

Perhaps the first thing that’s striking about TajMo, which was released on May 5, is its upbeat music – not exactly how you traditionally picture the blues! “Some people think that the blues is about being down all the time, but that’s not what it is,” explained Mahal in an interview posted on the web site that supports the album. “It’s therapeutic, so you can get up off that down.” He added, “We wanted to do a real good record together, but we didn’t want to do the record that everyone expected us to do.”

While the two artists have known each other for a long time and Mahal helped Mo’ get his first record deal, this is their first collaboration album. What took them so long? Well, for one, both have been busy with their own careers. Since his 1980 debut Rainmaker, which appeared under his actual name Kevin Moore, Mo’ has released 14 additional albums. The last one was That Hot Pink Blues Album from April 2016. Mahal’s most recent solo album (his 26th) Maestro dates back to 2008. Additionally, both artists kept busy with touring. Sometimes good things take time to happen!

“The making of this record spanned two and a half years, whenever we could get together between tours,” Mo’ said during the above interview on the album’s web site. “And over that two and a half years, I got to know Taj really well. We’d talk about music and life and what we were doing on the record. He’s a stellar human being, just a brilliant man. Making this record was a really big deal for me. I learned a lot working with him.” Added Mahal, “Keb’s really good at keeping the ball up in the air. I got to see quite a few sides of him, and I was really impressed. He’s a hell of a guitar player, and I’m just amazed at some of the stuff that he put out there.”

Taj Mahal & Keb Mo 3

The album kicks off with Don’t Leave Me Here, which has a cool grove with Memphis style horns and a great blues harp, with Mahal and Mo’ taking turns on lead vocals. Shake Me In Your Arms is a great old-school soul tune featuring Joe Walsh on guitar. Another standout is Soul, which provides a nice dose of Afro-Caribbean grove – an invitation to get up and dance!

The album also includes various terrific covers. One is Squeeze Box, a song from The Who I’ve always loved. Mahal and Mo’ truly make it their own, turning it into a Cajun-style tune. Another cover I’d like to call out is Waiting On the World to Change, my favorite John Mayer song. While I’m a huge fan of the original, after listening to Mahal and Mo’, I can’t help but think these guys were meant to sing this song. Further kicking it up a notch for me is Bonnie Raitt on background vocals.

In addition to Walsh and Raitt, other guest musicians on the album include Sheila E. and Liz Wright. TajMo was self-produced by the two blues men. The album was recorded in Nashville by Zach Allen, John Caldwell and Casey Wasner and mixed by Ross Hogarth.

I think No Depression’s take sums it up nicely: “This is how you create a masterpiece, layering it slowly and carefully. Two and a half years in the making, pieced together in Mo’s home studio between tours, the record sounds like one special night when the planets were perfectly aligned and the artists and the sound man was too. But the real beauty of this creation is that this creature won’t give you nightmares, and in this story, the night never ends.”

Taj Mahal & Keb Mo Concert Poster

Mahal and Mo’ will criss-cross the U.S. and play 39 shows in support of the album. The tour kicks off in Fort Collins, Colo. on May 30 and concludes in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla on Oct 28. After listening to this album, I couldn’t resist to get a ticket for Aug 10, when they’ll play the F.M. Kirby Center in Wilkes-Barre, Pa – not exactly next door for me, but I’m already excited and will be sure to blog about the show.

Here’s a clip of Don’t Leave Me Here.

Sources: American Songwriter, TajMo web site, American Blues Scene, Glide Magazine, No Depression (The Journal of Roots Music), Wikipedia, YouTube

10 thoughts on “Taj Mahal and Keb’ Mo’ Team Up For Uplifting Blues Album”

  1. TajMo musizieren zusammen auf hohem Level. Ein paar Kracher und ein paar sehr soulige Songs. Aber mir fehlen auf dem Album wirklich innovative Sachen. Musik, die einfach Spass macht!

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    1. Ich muß einfach noch mal wiederholen, wie begeistert ich von diesem Album bin – klar hat man das alles schon mal irgendwo anders gehört. Aber die Spielfreude dieser beiden Bluesmusiker ist total ansteckend. Und diese “Sumpfversion” von “Squeeze Box” ist einfach der absolute Knaller!

      Taj Mahal und Keb’ Mo’ gehen hier im Sommer auf eine gemeinsame Tour. Dies will ich mir auf keinen Fall entgehen lassen und habe mir gleich ein Ticket für August besorgt. Überlicherweise herrscht dann auch hier das entsprechende schwül-heiße Deltaklima!😆

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      1. Wie bereits gesagt: Taj Mahal und Keb Mo musizieren auf hohem Level. Beide blieben im Lauf ihrer Karrieren dem Blues mehr oder weniger treu, beiden waren in ihren besten Arbeiten traditionalistisch und konservatorisch orientiert. Ich hätte mir bei dem Album etwas mehr individuelle Stärke gewünscht, doch das ist Geschmacksache. TajMo spielen in diesem Sommer auch hier in der Schweiz: 11. Juli 2017 am Montreux Jazz Festival und am 23. Juli am Blue Balls Festival in Luzern. Ich wünsche Dir viel Spass beim Konzert!

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    1. Thanks, Jim. Agree, it’s not what you typically associate with the blues and certainly not from Taj Mahal. I still find it pretty cool. You can hear how much fun these guys had recording this album. I also just can’t get over the “swamp version” of “Squeeze Box.”

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