Lovin' in My Baby's Eyes

Taj Mahal & The Phantom Blues Band - "Down Home Girl" - LRBC Jan 2010

The African-derived heritage of most of those forms allowed Mahal to explore his own ethnicity from a global perspective and to present the blues as part of a wider musical context. Yet while he dabbled in many different genres, he never strayed too far from his laid-back country blues foundation.

The African-derived heritage of most of those forms allowed Mahal to explore his own ethnicity from a global perspective and to present the blues as part of a wider musical context. Yet while he dabbled in many different genres, he never strayed too far from his laid-back country blues foundation.

Blues purists naturally didn't have much use for Mahal's music, and according to some of his other detractors, his multi-ethnic fusions sometimes came off as indulgent, or overly self-conscious and academic. Still, Mahal's concept was vindicated in the '90s, when a cadre of young bluesmen began to follow his lead -- both acoustic revivalists Keb' Mo', Guy Davis and eclectic bohemians Corey Harris, Alvin Youngblood Hart. Taj Mahal was born Henry St.

Clair Fredericks in New York on May 17, After graduating, Mahal moved to Los Angeles in and, after making his name on the local folk-blues scene, formed the Rising Sons with guitarist Ry Cooder. The group signed to Columbia and released one single, but the label didn't quite know what to make of their forward-looking blend of Americana, which anticipated a number of roots rock fusions that would take shape in the next few years; as such, the album they recorded sat on the shelves, unreleased until Frustrated, Mahal left the group and wound up staying with Columbia as a solo artist.

His self-titled debut was released in early and its stripped-down approach to vintage blues sounds made it unlike virtually anything else on the blues scene at the time. It came to be regarded as a classic of the '60s blues revival, as did its follow-up, Natch'l Blues. The half-electric, half-acoustic double-LP set Giant Step followed in , and taken together, those three records built Mahal's reputation as an authentic yet unique modern-day bluesman, gaining wide exposure and leading to collaborations or tours with a wide variety of prominent rockers and bluesmen.

During the early '70s, Mahal's musical adventurousness began to take hold; 's Happy Just to Be Like I Am heralded his fascination with Caribbean rhythms, and the following year's double-live set, The Real Thing, added a New Orleans-flavored tuba section to several tunes.

In , Mahal branched out into movie soundtrack work with his compositions for Sounder, and the following year he recorded his most reggae-heavy outing, Mo' Roots. Mahal continued to record for Columbia through , when he switched to Warner Bros. Changing musical climates, however, were decreasing interest in Mahal's work and he spent much of the '80s off record, eventually moving to Hawaii to immerse himself in another musical tradition.

Mahal returned in with Taj, an album issued by Gramavision that explored this new interest; the following year, he inaugurated a string of successful, well-received children's albums with Shake Sugaree.

The same year marked Mahal's full-fledged return to regular recording and touring, kicked off with the first of a series of well-received albums on the Private Music label, Like Never Before. Meanwhile, he undertook a number of small-label side projects that constituted some of his most ambitious forays into world music. Maestro appeared in , boasting an array of all-star guests: A holiday album with the Blind Boys of Alabama, Talkin' Christmas, appeared in time for the season in

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