Blues/roots singer, guitarist, pianist, and Grammy Award-winner and roots music veteran Taj Mahal performed a variety of material in front of a sold-out room of fans at the Pour House on April 15. Taj and his backing combo — bassist Bill Rich and drummer Kester Smith — drew from a big catalog of songs, many of which are featured on the double-disc compilation The Essential Taj Mahal (Columbia/Legacy).

Local musician and freelance photographer J.R. Getches was in attendance, camera in hand. He filed this report and a nice slideshow of images:

“The opening act, James Justin & Co., was a joy — warm and inviting, with big sing-along choruses that drew crowd participation. The mandolin player, David, tastefully used distortion and wah effects to add texture to the usual organic bluegrass mix.

“I didn’t recognize any of Taj Mahal’s songs, although the crowd sang along several times. Taj sang very well and played the guitar, keys, and banjo very tastefully and skillfully. His blues melodies were unique, infectious, and upbeat. His band was very tight and very funky, in a unique way. The drummer played a stripped-down, spare, and powerful style that locked in with the bass player’s aesthetic. Taj blended a basket of unique blues traditions from West Africa, the Islands, and the Mississippi Delta — and he crossed that was a bit of reggae and bluegrass. The grooves went at their own pace, mostly allowing Taj to create counter-rhythms and solo space.”

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