Taj Mahal and Keb’ Mo’ – Tajmo (2017)

Two folk/blues legends, two generations, one marvelous meeting. Born out of an encounter at a Gregg Allman tribute, the younger Keb’ Mo’ jumped at the suggestion from Taj Mahal about “doing some recording together” and Tajmo, now available from Concord Records, is the happy result.

I say ‘happy’ with real intent, as Tajmo is a rather festive disc, a perfect meld of two large musical personalities that — as this record does such a good of revealing — have a whole lot of overlap.

The meeting of the minds come mainly from making careers out of delivering blues, roots and world music in a universally appealing way without forsaking any of the heritage. For instance, “Don’t Leave Me Here” (stream above) is a smooth contemporary production (Taj and Keb did the production themselves), reinforced with horn section action, but Taj and Keb’ trade stanzas about the age-old longing to return to the Mississippi Delta from the adopted North, sprinkled with some down home blues harp and tasty guitar licks. “She Knows How To Rock Me” is vintage Taj all the way, a good boogie beat and warm wit, as Keb’ just goes with the flow. “All Around The World” has that sunny disposition that is more of Keb’ Mo’s stock in trade, an amiable toe-tappin’, radio-ready ditty that sells out nothing.

The ol’ boys share lead vocals with Lizz Wright on the sweetly soulful “Om Sweet Om,” followed by funky, very danceable “Shake Me Your Arms” and a soul stomp “That’s Who I Am” livened up by a jaunty acoustic slide guitar and a banjo. “Diving Duck Blues” is just the two, fully exposing that personal connection between them as they exchange lines and licks. Heavy echoes of southern Africa reverberate on globetrotting shout-out song “Soul.”

TajMo turn The Who’s “Squeeze Box” into a Caribbean delight (with rhythm guitar by Joe Walsh) of a tune, which — come to think of it—is just tailor-made for them. Sorry Mr. Townshend, this is no longer your song. John Mayer’s “Waiting On The World To Change” isn’t quite as refurbished but it doesn’t need it to fit into the Tajmo vibe. And with Bonnie Raitt on backing vocals, it’s got something a little special that the original doesn’t.

Tajmo is a reminder of everything we’ve loved for decades about Taj Mahal and Keb’ Mo’, made more remarkable by combining the two because each are so much in character. If this record was merely the sum of its parts, it would be fine like that. Instead, we are gifted with something that’s better than it was destined to be.

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron is an SQL demon for a Fortune 100 company by day, music opinion-maker at night. His musings are strewn out across the interwebs on jazz.com, AllAboutJazz.com, a football discussion board and some inchoate customer reviews of records from the late 1990s on Amazon under a pseudonym that will never be revealed. E-mail him at svaaron@somethingelsereviews .com or follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SVictorAaron
S. Victor Aaron