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The BonTaj Roulet Tour

on April 17, 2009 No comments

By Matthew Oshinsky / The Star-Ledger
August 06, 2009

Bonnie Raitt will perform with fellow blues-rock legend Taj Mahal on this summer's BonTaj Roulet Tour.© Scott Newton
Bonnie Raitt will perform with fellow blues-rock legend Taj Mahal on this summer’s BonTaj Roulet Tour.
© Scott Newton

Bonnie Raitt and Taj Mahal have known each other for four decades, but they’ve never toured together until this summer. Their BonTaj Roulet Tour — a play on the Cajun phrase laissez les bon temps roulet (“Let the Good Times Roll”) — comes to Newark on Tuesday, and Brooklyn on Wednesday.

The two blues-oriented singer-songwriters will perform separate sets with their respective bands, then take the stage together. The tour began Thursday night in Williamsport, Pa. A few days before that, Taj Mahal refused to name any songs they might perform together.

“We have an idea,” he said, “but I’m not going to tell the end of the movie before it happens! We certainly have an audience that would be looking for certain kinds of stuff. We’ll try to satisfy people with those things, but because of these two great bands that are here, there’s also an opportunity for many other things to happen.”

Raitt came up with the idea for the BonTaj Roulet Tour and approached Mahal about it. She has said she wants to make it an annual event with an ever-changing roster of artists, in the style of the Lilith Fair.

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“We haven’t gone to that point yet,” says Mahal. “This is like testing the water, to see what happens. It probably would be a wonderful thing if something like that could happen, but you don’t want to jinx it.”

Mahal, 67, first met Raitt, 59, in 1967 or 1968. He had been performing professionally for a decade but was just beginning his career as a recording artist. She was starting to play clubs.

They met through Dick Waterman, who was Raitt’s mentor.

“He was a blues aficionado who branched out into managing and handling the careers of people like Mississippi John Hurt and Bukka White and Buddy Guy and Junior Wells — Fred McDowell, in particular,” says Mahal. “He was around the business, and then Bonnie was around with him for a while.”

A few years after they met, Raitt opened a show for Mahal at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. Then he co-produced and played on her third album, 1973’s “Takin’ My Time.” In 1996, she guested on his album, “Phantom Blues.” They also have seen each other at festivals and other events many times through the years.

Mahal has been one of the most restlessly creative musicians on the blues scene for decades, mastering a variety of acoustic and electric styles, and exploring Hawaiian music and various strands of Caribbean and African music. His last album, 2008’s “Maestro,” featured guest appearances by Ben Harper, Jack Johnson, Ziggy Marley, Los Lobos, Angelique Kidjo and Toumani Diabate.

Unlike some of his peers, Mahal has embraced the Internet, which gives him a way to connect directly with his fans. On his website, TajBlues.com, he offers a detailed summary of the many twists and turns of his long career, as well as streams of 38 songs.

“The recording industry could never really handle the fact that creativity comes when it does, and not just every 18 months, when they need an album,” he says. “My life is really about music and not about putting a product out, although I do. I’m just a musician, doing my stuff.”


Source Copyright ©: New Jersey On-Line

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