The Natch'l Blues
- Stereo recording
- LP x 1 standard sleeve
Taj Mahal’s second album, recorded in the spring and fall of 1968, opens with more stripped-down Delta-style blues in the manner of his debut, but adds a little more amplification (partly courtesy of Al Kooper on organ) before moving into wholly bigger sound on numbers like “She Caught the Katy and Left Me a Mule to Ride” and “The Cuckoo” — the latter, in particular, features crunchy electric and acoustic guitars and Gary Gilmore playing his bass almost like a lead instrument, like a bluesman’s answer to John Entwistle. Most notable, however, may be the two original closing numbers, “You Don’t Miss Your Water (’Til Your Well Runs Dry)” and “Ain’t That a Lot of Love,” which offer Taj Mahal working in the realm of soul and treading onto Otis Redding territory.
This is particularly notable on “You Don’t Miss Your Water,” which achieves the intensity of a gospel performance and comes complete with a Stax/Volt-style horn arrangement by Jesse Ed Davis that sounds more like the real thing than the real thing. “Ain’t That a Lot of Love,” by contrast, is driven by a hard electric guitar sound and a relentless bass part that sounds like a more urgent version of the bassline from the Spencer Davis Group’s “Gimme Some Lovin’.” This LP reissue includes a trio of bonus tracks: a faster-paced rendition of “The Cuckoo” with a more prominent lead guitar, the slow electric lament “New Stranger Blues” featuring some good mandolin-style playing on the guitar, and the rocking instrumental “Things Are Gonna Work Out Fine,” which is a killer showcase for Davis’ lead electric guitar and Taj Mahal’s virtuosity on the harmonica. Bruce Eder/AMG