Blues giants Taj Mahal and Keb' Mo' open Britt Music and Arts Festival's 2017 season with a full-band performance of their first collaboration, "TajMo," released May 5 on Concord Records.
When Mahal and Mo' — each a multiple Grammy Award-winner in his own right — teamed up to produce "TajMo," they mixed the best of their abilities for a relevant take on traditional blues. They put new spins on original songs and covers, such as a zydeco arrangement of Peter Townsend's "Squeezebox," and showcased cameo performances by Bonnie Raitt, Joe Walsh, Sheila E. and Lizz Wright.
Mahal's career dates back to 1968, when he — along with Jesse Ed Davis and Ry Cooder — put a raw, rockin' spin on classic blues on his self-titled debut album. He followed the same year with "The Natch'l Blues," both on the Columbia label. As a singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, Mahal has meandered through a range of world music, folk and jazz while staying rooted in acoustic blues.
Mo' is a living link to the Mississippi Delta blues that swept across America in the 1920s. His style, also influenced by folk, rock, jazz and pop, maintains his affinity for Delta blues, a variant of country blues. His 1994 debut record under the moniker Keb' Mo' included Robert Johnson's "Come On in My Kitchen" and "Kindhearted Woman Blues." The OKeh Records release also featured bassist James "Hutch" Hutchinson, known for his work with Raitt.
Now, Majal and Mo' — with the Taj Mahal & Keb' Mo' Band — have teamed up for a once-in-a-lifetime tour that includes stops at Ryman Auditorium in Nashville and the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles, among others, including a show at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, June 17, at the Britt Pavilion, 350 First St., Jacksonville. Black Pacific — Deva Mahal, Ahmen Mahal (yes, children of Mahal's) and Zoe Moon on guitars, bass and ukulele — will open the show. Rogue Rage — harmonica player Harpo DeRoma and guitarist Dan Tiller — will play Delta blues at 6 p.m. in the Performance Garden. Tickets are $224 for premium lawn seating for four; $112 for premium lawn seating for two; $54 for reserved seating; $39 for lawn seating; and $29 for lawn seating for ages 12 and younger. Tickets can be purchased at brittfest.org, by calling 800-882-7488, or at the box office, 216 W. Main St., Medford.
Look for a performance of the album's "Don't Leave Me Here," an ode to sweet home Mississippi, at the show. Its upbeat melody and rhythms are punctuated by a horn section and rich harmonica licks. Other highlights include the percussive "Soul," in which Mahal taps into his African and Cuban music influences, and there should be plenty of those moments with just Mahal on acoustic guitar and Mo' on resonator, singing and playing off each other.
Purchasing tickets for Britt shows is easier this year. Patrons can bypass long cues by purchasing tickets online. New this year: Tickets purchased online can be printed at home or uploaded to a smartphone and used for concert entry.
New food concessions will be available this summer at Britt. The Table Rock City food court is remodeled, and the festival has partnered with four local restaurants that will serve gourmet specialties. Look for Back Porch Bar and Grill, Fired Up Gourmet, Peruvian Point and Schoolhaus Brewhaus.
The food will pair nicely with wines and beers from EdenVale, Folin Cellars, Ledger David, Quady North, Weisinger Family Winery and Western Beverage. Food and beverage menus can be viewed at brittfest.org/concessions.
Britt's opening weekend continues Sunday, June 18, when Tennessee singer and songwriter Dustin Lynch performs at 7:30 p.m. His mix of traditional and edgy influences places his music at the forefront of today's contemporary country scene. Rogue Valley country band Fogline will open the show. Country rock band The Roadsters will perform at 6 p.m. in the Performance Garden. Tickets are $55 for standing room-only; $53 for reserved seating; $39 for lawn seating; and $29 for lawn seating for ages 12 and younger. No outside alcohol will be permitted at this performance.
Jurassic 5, an underground rap group from the late '90s, is back on stage in full form and will perform at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, June 20. Its newest track, "Customer Service," can be streamed or downloaded at jurassic5.com. Epic Lloyd, aka Lloyd Ahlquist, of YouTube series "Epic Rap Battles of History," will open the show. Tickets for the show are $48 for standing room-only; $46 for reserved seating; $36 for lawn seating; and $26 for lawn seating for ages 12 and younger.
California reggae band Rebelution, along with Nahko and the Medicine People, Collie Buddz and Hirie, will present their ever-youthful attitude of celebration at 5:50 p.m. Wednesday, June 28. Tickets are $48 for standing room only; $46 for reserved seating; $38 for lawn seating; and $28 for lawn seating for ages 12 and younger. No outside alcohol will be permitted at this performance. (Sold out at press time.)
This year's Best of Britt fundraiser, a benefit for the festival's education and engagement programs, brings Portland's Pink Martini back to the Britt Pavilion, along with food, wine and beer tastings. The festivities begin at 5 p.m. Thursday, June 29. The Ed Dunsavage Trio will perform jazz at 6 p.m. in the Performance Garden; Pink Martini's show starts at 8:30 p.m. All-inclusive tickets are $125 and include reserved seating or premium blanket seating for the concert.
Concert-only tickets for Pink Martini — featuring vocalists Storm Large and China Forbes — are $224 for premium lawn seating for four; $122 for premium lawn seating for two; $58 for reserved seating; $38 for lawn seating; and $28 for lawn seating for ages 12 and younger. This "little" orchestra draws inspiration from music all over the world. Gates open at 8 p.m.
At 7:30 p.m. Friday, June 30, Brit Floyd will present the spectacle of a live Pink Floyd concert recaptured in high-definition sound, a stunning light show and state-of-the-art video design. Look for favorites from "The Dark Side of the Moon," "Wish You Were Here," "The Wall" and "The Division Bell." Tickets are $224 for premium lawn seating for four; $112 for premium lawn seating for two; $54 for reserved seating; $39 for lawn seating; and $29 for lawn seating for ages 12 and younger.
Britt's summer lineup includes 37 performances by such artists as Diana Krall; UB40 Legends Ali, Astro and Mickey; The Temptations and The Four Tops on a double bill; The Avett Brothers; Rick Springfield; Huey Lewis (sold out); Joan Jett; George Thorogood; and more. The concert schedule is available online.