Alone and Together
The good times roll on the BonTaj Roulet tour
by Vanessa Salvia
Two outstanding blues performers, Taj Mahal and Bonnie Raitt, are coming to the Cuthbert Amphitheatre as part of their coast-to-coast, 30-date “BonTaj Roulet” tour. Each will perform individual sets with their backing bands, then all of them will play together in what Taj Mahal calls “a huge blow-out.” He also promises that Raitt has designed an “incredible” set for the stage. I spoke with Taj Mahal about the tour; here are some excerpts of our phone conversation.
EW: How is performing with your Grammy-winning band on stage along with Bonnie Raitt’s magnificent six-piece? The vibe must be pretty amazing.
Taj Mahal: The music’s really great! You’ve got great musicians that are familiar with the language of the music all across the board. I’ve got lots of different bands that I work with … including the Phantom Blues Band, which is the band that’s working with Bonnie on this tour. It’s exciting; she’s a consummate musician so she’s not gonna have people who aren’t gonna be able to play, and all the musicians admire one another, so it’s a wonderful thing.
You and Bonnie have known each other since the early ’70s; in fact Bonnie opened for you back then. Why was the time finally right to tour together?
Well, we’ve both developed our own careers. We’re on tour ourselves all the time. We’re out there, and most of the time you’re crossing like ships in the night. And by the time she got to the point of having hits, she was on a different kind of cycle than I was. Over the years we passed one another and played on the same festivals, but never had the opportunity to pull anything like this off.
You and Bonnie are both blues folk, but you approach the music from different angles and points of view. What do you find when you meet in the middle?
Most of it is just a love for the music. And most of the great artists out there people never get to hear. So we’re ensuring that their lives weren’t lived for nothing.
What are you hoping to achieve with the charitable fundraising you’re doing on this tour, the BonTaj Collective Action Fund?
Just good works, that’s what you gotta do. The focus is music in the schools and sustainable energy. Solar, wind. Music in the schools is a big focus. They cut all this stuff out. It’s like, “Excuse me?” You got to educate people if you want them to be able to carry on at the front of the world.
What does the name of your tour mean?
Roulet means “roll,” and it comes from the longer French phrase “Laissez les bon temps rouler,” “Let the good times roll.”
So the good times are rollin’ along with you.
We’re all really excited that you’re coming here.
Well, all right! It’ll be fun. I hope people come and are ready to dance. It’ll be good for listening too, but it’s a lot of dance music, so be ready to dance!
Bonnie Raitt and Taj Mahal. 7 pm Monday, Sept. 7. Cuthbert Amphitheatre • $35.25 general admission; $55.25-$65.25 reserved seating.