A Satisfied Blues: Taj Mahal’s “Satisfied ‘N Tickled Too”
I’m going to fess up: I stopped reading Crime and Punishment in the middle of Part III.
Even as I write this, I can hear a collective sigh of not really giving a fuck rising from the reader. But, as a self-proclaimed literary snob — a man who is captivated by the Quixotic qualities in Madame Bovary — it’s embarrassing to me to have given up half way through one of the classics.
When I told my brother Max, he was less than pleased, but explained that the problem was that I had tried to read it during the summer.
“You fool!” he exclaimed, “Dostoevsky must be read in the wintertime.”
I laughed at first, but as I thought it over, the comment made more and more sense. The environment in which you perceive art affects your feelings toward the piece. “Ain’t Wastin’ Time No More” should be listened to on highways; “Going to California” sounds best on mountaintops in Yosemite.
Clearly, the beach is just no place for an existential crisis.
So as summer approaches, I write to alert you of an album that will mesh perfectly with lazing in the sun: Taj Mahal’s Satisfied ‘N Tickled Too.
Taj Mahal began as a traditional blues man, but by the early 70’s, he had begun to mix in a World Music flair to his style.
Satisfied ‘N Tickled Too came out in 1976 and has been attacked critically. But while sitting on a front porch on a sunny day in July, I guarantee that the album will tickle the soul.
The two best tracks on the album are the title track and the oft-covered “Ain’t Nobody’s Business.”
The fact that Taj Mahal credits Hurt on his album provides an interesting take on what it means to cover a song — in many ways, besides the term “satisfied ‘n tickled too,” what Taj Mahal borrows most from the original was the emotional response the music evokes in the listener.
It’s hard to think of a better blues song to listen to in the summertime; as Hurt explained, “This is a satisfied blues.”
“Ain’t Nobody’s Business,” written in the 1920s by Porter Grangier and sung by Bessie Smith, has been covered by any and everyone (Billie Holiday, Hank Williams Jr., John Mayer and Eric Clapton to name a few).
It has also been adopted by Presidential Candidate Ron Paul as his official domestic policy.
My favorite version would have to be Otis Spann and Peter Green (of the group Fleetwood Mac) — an incredible slowed-down and ultra-bluesy take on the track.
But beer in hand under the noonday sun, won’t you please just give me some Taj Mahal.
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