Collaborations between well-established musicians can either be amazing where everything works out and gels, or they can end in complete disaster. As fans and listeners of music, we have fantasies of our favorite artists getting together and blending their sounds to make wonderfully harmonious music. There is no exception with blues music. We have seen many great musicians come together, for instance Eric Clapton with B.B. King, Buddy Guy with Junior Wells, and Joe Bonamassa with many great musicians. The combinations are even more impressive and captivating when you never imagined the musicians getting together or when their styles differ in profound ways.
In May 2017, two fantastic blues guitarist and singers joined their blues forces to create an impactful blues album that proves the genre is alive and kicking. The album is TajMo featuring Taj Mahal and Keb Mo. This kind of album vital to keeping great music alive and to expose this generation to America’s roots and the blues. They touch on various elements of blues and other styles, from rocking electric and fingerpicking acoustic blues, to soul, slide guitar, and calypso undertones. Essentially, it is a wonderful blend of styles, passions, of life experiences that just works. Individually, their paths and journeys are very different, but when they play together, the result is seamless and magical.
Taj Mahal is a cool cat who found his own sound by combining various forms of music. Born Saint Clair Fredricks, he was born in Harlem and grew up in Massachusetts. He was always surrounded by music, his mother a gospel singer and his father an Afro-Caribbean jazz pianist. He would listen to his parent’s radio all night long, listening to jazz musicians like Coltrane and Charles Mingus and reveling in stories his parents told him about the Harlem Renaissance. Taj got introduced to the guitar by his stepfather at thirteen years old and began performing around town. In 1959, he had a dream about Gandhi and India which moved him to change his whole outlook on life. After this, he began using the stage name Taj Mahal. Mahal moved out to California in 1964 where he joined fellow blues musicians Ry Cooder and Jessie Kincaid. He worked with great musicians such as Buddy Guy, Muddy Waters, and Lightin’ Hopkins. Over time and with experiences influencing him, Mahal added elements of reggae, calypso, jazz, RnB, and others to his music. This has warranted fans and critics to label his sound as a very unique form of blues and world-music.
Kevin Moore is an established blues guitarist and fantastic vocalist who goes by the moniker Keb Mo.’ Like his blues partner in crime Taj Mahal, Keb adds very unique and intriguing elements to his playing. His parents raised him to appreciate various forms of music, concentrating on gospel and blues roots. Unlike many other blues musicians, Keb began his professional music career playing steel drums in a calypso band. His bigger interest in blues came later in his career. In fact, he was 39 years old when he really explored some major blues artists and concentrated on playing it. Now, he is a three-time American Grammy Award winning guitarist and continues to perform and record in multiple settings.