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Bonnie Raitt and Taj Mahal at the Santa Barbara Bowl

The BonTaj Roulet Tour Let the Good Times Roll

on September 14, 2009 No comments

By Charles Donelan

The Bowl was jumping on Saturday night for the Bonnie Raitt and Taj Mahal double bill. Both are veteran artists with big, outgoing personalities and tremendous musicianship, and on this tour they share a dedication to letting the good times roll in a distinctly soulful, classic rhythm-and-blues idiom. Dressed in a blue shirt, black pants, and a white straw fedora hat, Mahal opened with a 45-minute set that showed off his powerhouse band and some super-tight Texicali horns. Having traveled all over the world developing his many styles of music allows Mahal the luxury of mining the past and still sounding absolutely contemporary. He may have been singing about Annie Mae and her big-leg grandma or playing the banjo, but he was never out of touch with the audience or the groove. The final song of the set, an instrumental called “711,” was as delicious as anything cooked up by The Meters or the MGs, with Mahal front and center with his hollow-body electric guitar battling the organ.

Bonnie Raitt came out for her set and continued down the rocking road Mahal had opened, covering some of the same vintage territory in a kind of Stax/Memphis meltdown. After telling everyone present, “Taj got my blood boilin’ hot,” Raitt proceeded to play spectacular guitar and sing like an angel, even as her between-songs patter took a mischievous turn. At one point, she even name-checked her bandmates’ girlfriends for showing them some pre-concert love. Keyboardist Ricky Peterson filled the night with steaming organ riffs and joined Raitt as a second vocalist on several occasions.

The long Bonnie Raitt solo set bled into a jubilant jam session that brought out all the players from both bands until there were some 12 musicians onstage, as well and Raitt and Mahal. The version they offered of Mahal’s classic “Satisfied and Tickled Too” was sublime, and included a verse in which the singer growled out some suggestive wordless lyrics. “Something to Talk About” followed, as did a pair of dedications to S.B. music industry legend Hale Milgrim and his wife, Annie, and then it was down the hill and onto Milpas Street for an awestruck, happy crowd.


Source: © Copyright Santa Barbara Independent

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Bonnie Raitt, Taj Mahal let the good times roll at the Greek

on September 12, 2009 No comments
by Pedro Larsen

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As the third set of the night got underway, Bonnie Raitt and Taj Mahal, two old friends who’d never before toured together, prowled the Greek Theatre stage, playfully sassing each other.

“Tramp!” the flame-haired Raitt purred, or maybe growled, at her partner on this summer outing they’ve named The BonTaj Roulet, a play on the old Louisiana French phrase for “Let the good times roll!”

“What you say?” Taj Mahal hollered back in pop-eyed mock indignation.

“Trr-ramp!”

“Listen here, little red mama! All the women up in here tonight know big daddy is a lover!”

And with that, Bonnie and Taj and their combined bands jumped into a feisty version of Slim Harpo’s “Baby, Scratch My Back.”

It was a typically smile-inducing moment in a night that provided many, as for 30 songs and nearly three hours Friday the pair offered up a wide-ranging night of the rootsy, blues-based songs both Raitt and Mahal long have championed.

Taj opened with a set of covers and originals that felt right at home with the New Orleans music-hall décor of the stage.

An R&B instrumental that gave each of the guys in his Phantom Blues Band a chance to shine segued into the slinky groove of “Diddy Wah Diddy” and the Fats Domino romp “Hey Josephine,” both which found Mahal in fine, gravelly voice.

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From there the set followed a similar pattern: a song of his own such as “Farther on Down the Road,” a soul-blues number into which he poured plenty of emotion, then a good-time blues classic such as “Annie Mae,” which gave him an opportunity to show off his fine chops on acoustic guitar.

“Oh, yeah, babies, grandpa can rock!” he hollered at the end of the instrumental “Seven Eleven,” and with “EZ Rider” he rocked it even more, the 67-year-old bluesman dance-stepping with plenty of energy as he and the band wrapped up their set.

As much as the crowd loved Taj, when Raitt arrived after a brief intermission it was clear that she had at least a slight edge in the amount of fans that filled most of the Greek.

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Bonnie Raitt’s Roulet

The Singer Joins Taj Mahal in the Round Saturday Night at the Santa Barbara Bowl

on September 6, 2009 No comments

By Charles Donelan

When Bonnie Raitt and Taj Mahal play the Santa Barbara Bowl this weekend as part of their BonTaj Roulet tour, they will bring an incomparable level of musical and historical experience to the stage, having between them commanded the attention of all kinds of music lovers worldwide for several decades. Mahal is the most musically extroverted of the great blues artists-as prominent, influential, and popular as B.B. King or Muddy Waters, but with an idiosyncratic set of interests, including world music, farming, and social justice.

Meanwhile Raitt represents a unique fusion of some of the main strands of American progressive culture since the 1960s. Her music draws on roots and blues traditions, but she has been a tireless proponent of the work of young and less recognized songwriters. She’s had hit records and critical favorites, and she’s been on the forefront of musical activism since her student days during the Vietnam War era. I recently spoke to Raitt in anticipation of her concert with Mahal at the Santa Barbara Bowl on Saturday, September 12.

I am excited about this double concert format, with you and Taj Mahal. Do you feel that way, too? Oh yes, I am thrilled at the combo, and about returning to Santa Barbara. I know the venue very well. They told me that I have played [the Bowl] 26 times, which even for me is a lot. Sometimes it gets into the stratosphere with places like Red Rocks, but I guess that I have to accept that I have been doing this a long time now. Not as long as Taj though.

It shows they have good taste at the Bowl. Your early records were important to me and to many people I knew growing up because they wove together our feelings about politics and our feeling for roots music, particularly the blues. That means a lot, because it’s that exact part of what I do that means the most to me, too.

How did your life as an activist come about? I was raised in Los Angeles in a Quaker family. My folks converted during the Second World War. My own desire to work with the AFSC [American Friends Service Committee] came out of that connection. Growing up, I idolized Bob Dylan and Joan Baez, and that made me want to do music, but I also thought I should change the world. So very early on, the idea of marrying music and activism, and exposure to that whole period of Sing Out! Magazine and Pete Seeger-that was really what made me pick up the guitar. I loved the power of music to bring people together to have a good time, but I also knew that you could use music to raise money and get press attention for a good cause.

I know you were also involved in the action against the Seabrook Nuclear Power Plant. That’s right, 1976, the Clamshell Alliance. Absolutely.

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