Etta Baker With Taj Mahal

I have a rule of thumb.  If someone is over 90 years old and they make an album, you have an obligation to listen to it.  It's sort of a respecting your elders thing.  This can be a daunting task if the albums by your great grandmother who still listens to music on a Victrola.  If the album is by a 91 year-old named Etta Baker, however,  it's nothing but a pleasure.  Such is the case on this underrated 2004 acoustic-blues collaboration Etta Baker With Taj Mahal, which features two aging blues guitar legends doing what they do best.

At the time of this recording the collective ages of Etta Baker and Taj Mahal equaled a whopping 153 years.  The two artists obviously didn't set out to make a career defining masterpiece on this effort.  Rather (I hate to stereotype old people but...) it sounds like an impromptu jam on one of their front porches;  a break between bridge and ice tea.  

The record is a hodgepodge that serves multiple purposes.  Of its 19 songs, six are the expected collaboration between Taj and Etta, six are slightly older solo recordings by Etta and the rest are the 1956 recordings which showcased a 43 year-old Etta Baker making her debut with passion, precision and a whole lot of joy.  It makes for a perfect introduction to this wonderful and treasured guitar player who sadly passed away in 2006 at age 93.  What a record—perfect for your break between bridge and ice tea (or any other fine parlor room occasion.)  

Etta Baker With Taj Mahal



Rising Sons Featuring Taj Mahal And Ry Cooder

The title almost says it all.  Rising Sons also included future member of The Byrds and The Rolling Thunder Revue Kevin Kelley, as well as veteran session drummer Ed Cassidy of Spirit—he was in his mid 40's here and he sounds like he loves playing with a bunch of kids!

But let's face it, if you're looking at this page, you came because you're wondering if a collaboration between two guitar legends, Taj Mahal and Ry Cooder, is worth listening to.  I have good news for you.  Rising Sons Featuring Taj Mahal And Ry Cooder is not simply worth listening to.  Rather, if those two names mean anything to you, it's essential listening.

The guitar interplay is fantastic and is what you would expect from two virtuosos.  But, this recording, which combines 22 tracks recorded between 1965 and 1966, is more than a guitar showcase.  There are a lot of worthy cuts on here, which are treated with both plenty of integrity and originality.  

Recommended tracks include: "If The River Was Whiskey," "Let The Good Times Roll," "11th Street Overcrossing," "Tulsa Country," "The Girl With Green Eyes" and "Take A Giant Step"—the latter two would have fit perfectly onto Workingman's Dead by Grateful Dead.

According to Richie Unterburger of the All Music Guide, "this archival release has value above and beyond historical interest." 


Rising Sons Featuring Taj Mahal And Ry Cooder