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Taj Mahal, loose and casual in informal recording sessions with peers
Taj performs with guest artists: John Dee Holeman, Cool John Ferguson, Cootie Stark and Algia Mae Hinton
The blues live on because the blues give people life, not the other way around. Talk about the blues with Grammy winning singer-songwriter and composer Taj Mahal, or Tim Duffy, founder of the Music Maker Relief Foundation, and you'll quickly understand how deeply they grasp this. So it's no surprise that their shared love of blues has created a special vinyl-only album release that's got the loose, easy feel of a porch-sitting guitar strum, sipping sweet tea on a warm summer day.
It is, as Taj himself exclaimed upon receiving his copy of this exquisite album - a "great package, mind-blowing sound!!"
Labor Of Love comprises recordings made by Tim Duffy, hanging out with Taj and other artists in a Houston hotel room and during visits to the Music Maker Relief Foundation headquarters in Hillsborough, North Carolina.
Taj and Tim first connected in the mid-1990s as Tim was establishing the foundation. The foundation is dedicated to preserving Southern roots music by directly supporting senior artists in need, while documenting their music and sharing their stage and recording talents with the world.
A CD collection released by the foundation featuring Music Maker artists caught Taj's attention. Tim invited Taj to his place in rural Pinnacle, N.C., where he hung out with several of the artists. Taj loved how they played and sang, but he especially loved "getting to know their lives and how they made things work."
Not much time passed before a performing tour was launched, with Taj as the headliner. Meanwhile, Tim, sensing an incredibly rich opportunity, was hauling along with the tour, high-end recording gear. He set it up in hotel rooms hoping to capture an impromptu session. One night in Houston, magic happened. A few senior bluesmen, Tim, Taj and the daughter of Katie Mae, immortalized in the Lightin' Hopkins classic "Katie Mae Blues" hung out together in a hotel room in Houston. Taj picked up an acoustic guitar and started in on classic tunes - "Stagger Lee", "Walking Blues" and more. The tape was rolling.
During the time of the tour, Taj was also visiting during hang-out, barbecue and recording sessions at Music Maker's new North Carolina headquarters in Hillsborough. When the music got going, Taj would play some piano, bass, harp, banjo, mandolin and whatever else was needed.
Now is the time for these immortalized sessions to be heard. So here they are on a solid piece of wax. And what wax it is - a full-on 180-gram vinyl Analogue Productions masterpiece plated and pressed at Quality Record Pressings, maker of the world's best-sounding LPs. Packaged in a Stoughton Printing tip-on gatefold jacket. You won't find a more intimate portrayal of Taj as a freewheeling, fun-loving, always-in-the-pocket sideman.
What we have here is magic: classic blues tunes - 'Stagger Lee,' 'My Creole Bell,' 'Mistreated Blues,' 'Zanzibar,' 'John Henry' and more - treated with such love and wit and heartache and (to use a tired term that's appropriate here) authenticity. Few field-hand recordings are drenched with this much sweat. And none of those field-hand recordings (few live or studio recordings, period) sound so vivid.
Even if you know these chestnuts like 'Creole Bell,' 'John Henry' and 'Hambone' by heart, you'll experience them here with fresh life breathed into their musical arteries. ... Among my favorites is Taj's instrumental 'Zanzibar,' but really, every track is a treasure. ... Don't be a fool and let the resolution stop you. These are probably the best sounding damn 'field recordings' you're likely ever to hear and the stripped-down music is transportive and magical.
- 180g Vinyl
- Double LP
- Mastered by Kevin Gray at Cohearent Audio from original 44.1kHz/16-bit session recordings
- Plated & Pressed at Quality Record Pressings
- Stoughton Printing Tip-On Gatefold Jacket
- Stagger Lee
- Shortnin' Bread (With Neal Pattman)
- My Creole Belle
- I Ain't The One You Love (With Algia Mae Hinton)
- Fishin' Blues
- Mistreated Blues (With John Dee Holeman)
- So Sweet (With Cootie Stark)
- Spike Drivers Blues
- Hambone (With John Dee Holeman)
- Walkin' Blues
- John Henry (With Etta Baker)
- Song For Brenda (With Cool John Ferguson)