The first collaboration of the blues-based worthies, Taj Mahal and Keb Mo, is a happy recording. These guys sound like they’re glad to be picking together.
Tajmo seems like an inevitable album as the musicians are different sides of the same coin — they started in different decades but their approach is similar. Their acoustic, blues-based roots sound hints at different styles and unusual cover material.
Taj Mahal (otherwise known as Henry Saint Clair Fredericks) and Keb Mo (once known as Kevin Moore) have the rough and the smooth covered, kind of like Leadbelly and Harry Belafonte but much closer in style.
At first listen it’s not obvious, but the difference is complimentary. They have the chemistry of blues duos of yesteryear and the empathy carries over into grooved out picking and sparse sounds.
All Around the World is more soul meets R&B than a straight roots recording, and That’s Who I Am has a light funk pace, courtesy of an R&B rhythm section.
There are gritty talking blues jams (She Knows How to Rock Me), an acoustic funk trade off (Don’t Leave Me Here) and darker jazzy vibes (Ain’t Nobody Talkin’).
Tajmo is groovy ear candy with uber-tasteful guitar and stringed instrument sounds. They sound tight, connected, and project like they’ve been working together forever. That effortless dialogue and the even flow of the music obscures the fact that they work outside of the blues box more often than not.
The chicken-pickin’ Soweto sound of Soul and the folk pop sweetness of Om Sweet Om move into left turn material like a cover of The Who’s Squeeze Box and John Mayer’s Waiting On the World to Change. One song hops and the other one swings and both are given a distinct treatment.
Just for good, keeping-on-your-toes measure, Joe Walsh drops by to jam (Shake Me In Your Arms).
–Dean Gordon-Smith is a Vernon-based musician who reviews the latest music releases in his column, Street Sounds, every Friday.