The Hidden Treasures of Taj Mahal 1969 – 1973
Here's a great surprise for Taj Mahal fans; all of the vintage material on this 2-CD set is previously unreleased. And don't think the material was left in the can until now because it's subpar; to the contrary Disc 1, a collection of stray studio tracks, features stellar cuts like Mahal's funky interpretation of Blind Willie McTell's "Chainey Do" and "Sweet Mama Janisse" where guitarist Jesse Ed Davis does some fancy chicken-pickin'. The lengthy hypnotic groove of "Yah-Nah Mama-Loo," with Mahal blowing blues harp, is a standout as is the 16-minute "You Ain't No Streetwalker, Honey But I Do Love the Way You Strut Your Stuff." Disc 2 presents nine songs recorded live at London's Royal Albert Hall in 1970 where Mahal starts the show with an a cappella version of the traditional tune "Runnin' By the Riverside" and a take on his own "John, Ain't It Hard" featuring just his voice and picking on his National steel bodied guitar. Mahal's band, again featuring Davis, comes out for a set that includes the Chicago blues of "Big Fat," an interpretation of the traditional "Oh, Susanna" that's nearly as spirited as Neil Young's recent cover and a long jam on the Band's "Bacon Fat."
Good Track Records
Koppy has a bit of a Johnny Cash thing going on with his vocal style and that gives his story telling on songs like "One Great Mornin' (The South's Gonna Rise Again)" believability. The song, an old style classic country number with weepy pedal steel and banjo embellishment from the Dirt Band's John McEuen, laments the disappearance of the once simpler southern lifestyle. The lusty "A Filled-Out Shirt" on the other hand finds Koppy putting out a call for a stacked honey while the band thumps out a rockabilly beat, "River" is a reflective number reminiscent of the quiet side of Jimmy Buffett while "Nineteen Years Old" channels early John Stewart. Ashmore's Store is a concept album that explores the joys and perils of trying to recapture the past and to that end Koppy packages the effort inside a hard cover CD-size book full of remembrances, notes and photos that reinforce the notion. Guests include ex-players of bands like Merle Haggard's Strangers, the Jim Kweskin Jug Band, Seatrain, Dr. Hook and even the metal band Malice.
Josh Phillips Folk Festival
This great band is (thankfully) not going to be easily pigeonholed; Get Outside begins with "Angelina," essentially a bluesy folk song that Phillips sings in a gravelly voice as the band lays down a bluegrass-y tune with banjo and fiddle up front. The bucolic flavor of the song and the band's name hint that what's to follow is more of the same but that's not the case. The Folk Festival quickly hits the road with the funky, scritchy-rhythmed "Travelers Song," mellows out with the soft "I'm All Alone" and heads for the dance floor with the reggae/Balkan brass mash-up of "Keep People Waiting." Initially unpredictable from song-to-song, Get Outside is one of those albums that ultimately reveals itself to be quite sublime after multiple listens, occasionally really hitting a high with tunes like "It's All About Your Breathing (It's Just That Easy)." Just though, when thinking of the band's name, put more emphasis on the "festival" than the "folk." Get it here
25 Years of Rock'n'Roll
Bopcats guitarist Lindy Fralin wrote most of the songs on this homage to the nascent days of rock'n'roll but chances are unless you've seen the hard working, long running band live you are not familiar with these tunes. That doesn't mean you're not familiar with the sound presented here though; "I Don't Want to be Alone" is inspired by the same Duane Eddy twang that permeated Mark Knopfler's work with Dire Straits, "Dark Train" is a boppin' rockabilly and "Crazy Little Baby" channels Gene Vincent. Amongst the originals are cool covers of Johnny Cash's "Get Rhythm," the Stones' "Ventilator Blues" and a spirited take on country chestnut "The Race is On."