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Artist Spotlight: Taj Mahal
This is the sixth post in a series of articles highlighting the artists performing at The 2018 Roots N Blues N BBQ Festival. Check out the rest here

-Lacey Sterling, Roots N Blues Intern

Henry Saint Clair Fredericks, known by his fans as Taj Mahal, is an American blues artist with a laid back yet funky vibe. When I listened to him for the first time, I immediately noticed his terrific use of musical instruments. He plays everything from the guitar to harmonica, but it’s how he uses them that is specifically impressive. Mahal is a genius when it comes to combining different sounds that expand traditional blues into a new genre that is not only fun but also exciting.

Fredericks musical talent comes as no surprise because his passion for music began at such an early age. It was inevitable considering his mother was a member of the gospel choir, and his father was also a jazz musician and piano player. Not only that, but he was one of the lucky ones — his family owned a shortwave radio. It had the ability to reach stations across the world, which exposed him to artists from Africa and the Caribbean that were likely influences on his playing style later in life.

Tragedy struck the family early on when Henry Saint Clair Fredericks Sr. was killed in a horrific accident at his construction company. Fredericks Sr. died after he was crushed by a tractor that  rolled over on top of him. Mahal’s mother eventually remarried after the death of his father, and his stepfather had a guitar that he would let Taj Mahal use. He soon learned to play with help from a neighbor. Just like that, he was on his way to become a master of his craft.

With a prolific career spanning nearly five decades, it’s hard not to be impressed with his accomplishments. He’s been a singer, a songwriter and the leader of the band.  Throughout his career, he has worked with legendary artists like Eric Clapton, RNB alumnus Buddy Guy and Muddy Waters. Mahal has been signed by various major labels including Columbia Records and Warner Bros. Records. In addition, he has won three Grammy awards and has been nominated 14 times. In 2017, Taj Mahal won his most recent Grammy. His album TajMo received the award for Best Contemporary Blues Album.

This Grammy winning artist is also a Roots N Blues veteran. Not only did he play the music festival in 2007 but he returned to play again in 2011. His sound only continues to get better as the years go on. If you missed his live performances or haven’t had the opportunity to listen to him yet, I strongly suggest you do it now. I recommend starting with two of my favorites, “Don’t Leave Me Here” and “Queen Bee.” They will be sure to get your toes tapping and heads bobbing. I promise you will not be disappointed!

 

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