Taj's Blues is an entertainingly diverse record, featuring a variety of blues and roots-music styles, all fused together into a distinctive sound of its own. Half of the album is played on acoustic, the other with an electric band (which includes guitarists Ry Cooder and Jesse Davis on a handful of tracks), which gives a pretty good impression of the range of Mahal's talents. It's a good collection, featuring many of his best performances for Columbia, including "Statesboro Blues" and "Leaving Trunk," as well as the unreleased "East Bay Woman".
This 1996 album picks up where Dancing the Blues left off three years earlier, with producer John Porter and most of the same studio cast. There's more of a New Orleans flavor this time, with barrelhouse pianist Jon Cleary contributing a couple of originals to go with such classics as Jesse Hill's "Ooh Poo Pah Doo" and Fats Domino's "Let the Four Winds Blow." Bonnie Raitt and a full vocal chorus help kick "I Need Your Loving" into overdrive. Mahal's one original is the tender, acoustic country-sounding "Lovin' in My Baby's Eyes".
It may have been relatively late in Jimmy Rushing's career when he recorded two albums for ABC/BluesWay (Every Day I Have the Blues and Livin' the Blues, both of which are reissued in full on this single CD), but he was still in prime singing voice. Joined by such friends as trombonist Dickie Wells, trumpeter Clark Terry, and tenor saxophonist Buddy Tate, Rushing shows that he was still relevant on such blues-based songs as "Berkeley Campus Blues," "Blues in the Dark," "I Left My Baby," "Sent for You Yesterday," and "We Remember Prez." Even with Oliver Nelson's arrangements on the first half and an electric rhythm section on the second, both Rushing and the musicians play off each other well, resulting in a swinging set.
On Blues Is a Feeling, the late guitarist-vocalist Jesse Thomas delivers straightforward, rural-sounding blues in an intimate, drumless session from 1992 with pianist Jodie Christian and second guitarist John Primer. Thomas was 81 years old at the time of this recording, just three years before his death. And though his voice sounds somewhat frail here-and probably would’ve been overwhelmed by the sound of drums-Primer and Christian provide light, elegant accompaniment that puts Thomas’ soft yet expressive vocals in the foreground. And Thomas proves to be a humorous storyteller on tunes like “Married Woman Blues,” “She Throwed Me Clothes Outdoor” and “Santa Claus.”
Señor Blues is one of Taj Mahal's best latter-day albums, a rollicking journey through classic blues styles performed with contemporary energy and flair. There's everything from country-blues to jazzy uptown blues on Señor Blues, and Taj hits all of areas in between, including R&B and soul. Stylistically, it's similar to most of his albums, but he's rarely been as effortlessly fun and infectious as he is here.