Private Music 01005-82151-2
Taj Mahal's Señor Blues reflects a blues foundation, but its musical range spans from R&B/soul ("Think," Otis Redding's "Mr. Pitiful") to jazz (the title cut) to old-time swing ("You Rascal You") to dramatic gospel fervor ("Oh Lord, Things Are Gettin' Crazy Up in Here") to front-porch country (Hank Williams Sr.'s "Mind Your Own Business").
So if you're looking for a work that falls within the blues tradition in a strict sense (or even within the broader sense that Mahal presented in his earlier days), you'll need to look elsewhere. But if you like Taj Mahal's work and trust him enough to follow where he leads, you'll have a great time with Señor Blues, because it's a well-executed sampling of 20th century American musical roots -- almost, but not exclusively African-American -- and there's a surprise around every corner.
The only complaint is that it includes only two Taj Mahal originals (and one of them a shared credit with pianist Jon Cleary). Mahal's taste in cover material is impeccable, but the man writes good music of his own and always has. More of it would be welcome on future releases.
-- Bryan Powell