By James Reed – Globe Staff / August 14, 2009
Bonnie Raitt isn’t kidding when she forewarns that you probably won’t get in a word edgewise when she and Taj Mahal lock into a conversation. “We interview ourselves and occasionally let you guys have a question,’’ she says, laughing.
You can’t blame them, of course. These two have a lot to talk about, from fond memories of their early days in Boston to shared musical influences (blues legends and unsung ’60s singers like Judy Henske and Judy Roderick) to, maybe most of all, their mutual admiration.
After 40 years of friendship, Raitt and Mahal have just launched a new joint tour called BonTaj Roulet, which comes to the Bank of America Pavilion tomorrow. (Tonight’s show at the Cape Cod Melody Tent is sold out.)
Raitt, 59, and Mahal, 67, got their professional starts around here, but their paths never crossed. He was born in Harlem but grew up in Springfield and later attended UMass-Boston and vividly remembers playing at Club 47 (now Club Passim). By the time Raitt arrived in 1967 as a freshman at Radcliffe College, Mahal had cleared out to California, but they eventually met through Dick Waterman, Raitt’s mentor back then. Raitt befriended Mahal when she opened for him at Skidmore College in the early ’70s, and he ended up coproducing her classic 1973 album, “Takin’ My Time.’’
When we spoke last month, Raitt and Mahal hadn’t ironed out the logistics for their tour, aside from exchanging wish lists of songs they’d like to perform together. The show will feature solo sets from each artist, along with a 30-minute closing segment together. Raitt mentions they’re especially proud that they’ve tried to keep ticket prices low in this tough economy, and some proceeds will benefit social causes determined by fans’ feedback at www.bontaj.com.
Following is an edited transcript of our feisty, half-hour conversation that, just as she predicted early on, Raitt and Mahal deftly guided and turned into a history lesson on four decades of playing the blues.But wait, there's more!