Never in my wildest dreams did I ever figure that after running 22k in the morning, would I head out to do another 7k at slightly faster than my morning pace (that’s a total of 29k on the day)…much less after a two and a half hour drive but, yet, here I am. This is my last workout of the weekend until I can 100% relax and soak in all things vinyl, craft beer and spirited conversation. This last approximate 40 minute “double run” has been set to the ‘Happy to be Just Like I Am‘ album by Taj Mahal.
Taj had mapped out a unique vision of country blues and its ethnographic sources on his first three albums, and this 4th LP (released in 1971), continued in a similar vein while broadening his scope at the same time.
Anyone who delivers an arrangement of ‘Oh Susanna‘ that marries a hard-boogeying rhythm section with a fife as lead instrument is clearly not aiming for a purist’s approach to the blues, and Mahal was willing to bring a bit more contemporary rhythm & blues into his formula here, with the title track boasting the kind of groove and melodic lift that should have earned it a place on the radio (through the fact a tuba accompanies an electric bass in the bottom end might have puzzled a few programmers), and ‘Chevrolet‘ bubbling with potent, organic funk.
But Mahal was (and is) far too enamored of eclecticism to make an entire album that follows a single direction, and the steel drum reverie of ‘West Indian Revelation‘, the mixture of African percussion and steel guitar on ‘Black Spirit Boogie‘, and the acoustic blues with tuned cowbells on ‘Eighteen Hammers‘ are all the work of a man eager to twist his music into a variety of different forms.
It was a good listen while cruising an unfamiliar neighborhood and seeing what all the other Joneses’ are up to here in Ro’chestah. Surprising, the legs felt…good.
Now, let the good times begin.