Thursday, August 6, 2009

Sacred Island

In little over a week, I'm due to fly to Hawaii with the family to visit my in-laws. I suppose it's a budding island mentality that made me pull Sacred Island off The Shelf.

I'm not sure how to describe Taj Mahal (a/k/a Henry Saint Clare Fredericks). He is one of the more enigmatically enduring blues/rock artists of the past four decades. Perhaps his longevity is attributable to his failure to sell out and his constantly shifting identity.

In 1968, Taj was featured (among heavyweights like The Who, John Lennon and Eric Clapton) in "The Rolling Stones Rock-n-Roll Circus", a live performance that perhaps launched Taj's career. At the time his sound was a bluesy-rock mix. Into the 1970's, though Taj channelled more towards what is often ambiguously called 'world music' with Afro-Caribbean and reggae influences anchoring his sound.

Into the 1990's, as blues music began to make a major comeback, Taj refocused on traditional blues and I suppose if asked, he would refer to himself as a bluesman. I saw him perform live at Irving Plaza, NYC in 1998. The mood of that show as pure, raucous juke-joint fun.

But gratefully, in 1998, he took a break from that blues persona and made Sacred Island, absolutely one of my favorite albums.

Sacred Island blends Taj's folksy-blues with Caribbean and Hawaiian sounds. In the liner notes, he describes being captivated by Hawaiian music as a child within which he easily found parallels with the Caribbean traditions of his family upbringing.

The title track, "Sacred Island" is an instrumental. No matter where I am and no matter what I'm doing - when I hear that song, I'm lying in the sand on the beach of Kailua Bay at night, looking up at the sky, the stars and the dancing palms batting about in the nighttime wind.

No comments:

Post a Comment