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Taj Mahal and Los Lobos at the State Theater

March 12, 2007

The Washington Post 3/12/07:  At first glance, putting Taj Mahal and Los Lobos on tour together may not seem obvious, or even understandable. But when the legendary bluesman and the Tex-Mex rockers from East L.A. teamed up at the State Theater in Falls Church on Friday, they dug into their roots -- and came up with a spectacular show that ranged from Venezuelan folk songs to gut-churning Delta blues.

tajmahal.jpgBacked by Kester Smith on drums and Bill Rich on bass, Mahal opened the show, delivering classics from "Corinna" to "Going Up to the Country, Paint My Mailbox Blue," with a quick turn at the keyboard for Little Walter's "Blues With a Feeling." It didn't matter that Mahal's been performing a lot of this material for decades -- he's still one of the most satisfying and innovative blues players around.

At 64, his voice is supple and strong, and he brought an easy spontaneity to everything he played, channeling a Sybil-like range of personalities for "Fishing Blues" and even spanking his guitar when the mood struck him. And his pleasure in being onstage was infectious -- it took him about three seconds to get the packed house singing along with the sultry "Uh-Huh Blues."

                                   Photo by C.P. McBride
Los Lobos have covered a lot of ground since they were formed in 1973, playing everything from Tejano R&B to refried rockabilly. For their current tour -- called "Acoustic en Vivo" -- they're focusing on their Mexican roots, and most of their set was devoted to traditional music from across Latin America. It's fun, lively stuff -- lots of catchy melodies and jumping rhythms -- and they brought out a battery of indigenous instruments, from the bass guittaron to a couple of jaranas, to bring it all authentically alive.

But this music isn't nearly as interesting as Los Lobos's own material, and it was a relief when the band plugged the electric guitars back in and launched into early hits like "Will the Wolf Survive?" and "Saint Behind the Glass." And in two of their newest songs -- the dark, brooding "The Town" and the joyful "Chuco's Cumbia" -- Los Lobos showed why they're one of the most consistently powerful, inventive and interesting bands around.

Posted on Monday, March 12, 2007 at 01:20PM by Registered CommenterStephen Brookes | CommentsPost a Comment

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