Taj Mahal and Ry Cooder Perform The Songs of Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee - Noise11.com
Taj Mahal and Ry Cooder

Taj Mahal and Ry Cooder

Taj Mahal and Ry Cooder Perform The Songs of Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee

by Paul Cashmere on January 28, 2022

in News

Blues legends Taj Mahal and Ry Cooder have teamed back up together to perform the songs of Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee.

The pair had a band together in the 1960s. Taj Mahal and Ry Cooder where The Rising Sons. The band signed to Columbia Records. They recorded an album but it remained unreleased until 1992. This new album ‘Get On Board’ is their first collaboration since those mid 60s recordings.

Both Taj Mahal (now 79) and Ry Cooder (now 74) first heard Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee in their teens.

“They were so solid. They meant what they said, they did what they did … here’s two guys, a guitar player and a harmonica player, and they could make it sound like a whole orchestra, 79 year old Taj Mahal said about the bluesmen.
Sonny Terry died in 1986. Brownie McGhee in 1996.

Taj added, “I started hearing them when I was about nineteen, and I wanted to go to these coffee houses, ‘cause I heard that these old guys were playing. I knew that there was a river out there somewhere that I could get into, and once I got in it, I’d be all right. They brought the whole package for me.”

“It was perfect. What else can you say?,” says Ry Cooder. “Down the road, away from Santa Monica. Where everything was good. ‘I have got to get out of here,’ was all I could think. What do you do, fourteen, eighteen years old? I was trapped. But that first record, Get on Board, the 10” on Folkways, was so wonderful, I could understand the guitar playing.”

“You got the south on steroids, when you got the music of the south, the culture of the south, the beauty of the south, through Brownie and Sonny,” Taj Mahal says. He describes McGhee as a “solid rhythm player. To really play behind the harp like that. He would set stuff up. He wasn’t making many notes. Sonny had all the notes, running around. But Brownie, he laid it down.” Cooder adds: “This thing of squeezing the thumb and first finger and a little bit of the second finger, which I still do. I’d forgotten where it came from. That’s what Brownie did. I saw him do that and said, ‘I think I can do that.’”

Taj Mahal calls Terry “a wizard harmonica player.” Cooder says, “Sonny had incredible rhythm for one thing. Making sounds with his voice and the harmonica so you couldn’t tell quite which was which. He was good at that.”

“We’ve been doing this a while,” Cooder says. “Perhaps we’ve earned the right to bring it back. Taj Mahal concludes. “We’re now the guys that we aspired toward when we were starting out. Here we are now … old timers. What a great opportunity, to really come full circle.”

‘Get On Board’ will be released on 22 April 2022.

GET ON BOARD: THE SONGS OF SONNY TERRY & BROWNIE MCGHEE

1. My Baby Done Changed the Lock on the Door
2. The Midnight Special
3. Hooray Hooray
4. Deep Sea Diver
5. Pick a Bale of Cotton
6. Drinkin’ Wine Spo-Dee-O-Dee
7. What a Beautiful City
8. Pawn Shop Blues
9. Cornbread, Peas, Black Molasses
10. Packing Up Getting Ready to Go
11. I Shall Not Be Moved

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