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Check It Out

Check It Out: February 8, 2013

Taj Mahal – The Complete Columbia Albums Collection (Columbia/Legacy) Far more than a mere bluesman, Taj Mahal is a musicologist whose gritty vocals and multi-dimensional grasp of genres has found him collaborating with a who’s who of talent including Ali Farka Toure, Bonnie Raittand Captain Beefheart. This versatility is clear throughout the 13 albums that make up this hefty box set.

Starting with the Rising Sons, the obscure mid-’60s supergroup he co-helmed with fellow musical square peg Ry Cooder that only released one official single, Mahal was never content to stay within the narrow confines of one genre. Even though his self-titled 1968 debut found him funneling covers of Sleepy John Estes, Sonny Boy Williamson and Elmore James through a Cream-like sieve with help from Cooder and longtime sideman Jesse Ed Davis, Mahal’s creative wanderlust only expanded going forward.

On subsequent albums, he would put a sanctified stamp on William Bell’s soulful lament “You Don’t Miss Your Water” and transform blues mandolin player Yank Rachell’s “She Caught the Katy (And Left Me a Mule To Ride)” into a slinky harp workout later resurrected by The Blues Brothers. Mahal even tackled the honky-tonk trucker’s anthem “Six Days On the Road.”

By the time of 1976’s Satisfied ’N Tickled Too, the Harlem native was incorporating elements of reggae, salsa and fusion into his compositional stew. In the end, this chronological journey ends up being a trip well worth taking for the musically adventurous.   

Fri. 2.8 - Huntington

Taj Mahal Trio/Robert Randolph Present The Slide Brothers @ The Paramount

370 New York Ave., 8 p.m. $69.50, $59.50, $44.50, $39.50, $34.50, $29.50. 631-673-7300 www.paramountny.com

Sat. 2.9 - Bay Shore

Rufus Wainwright @ the YMCA Boulton Center for the Performing Arts

37 W. Main St. 8 p.m. $110, $105. 631-969-1101 www.boultoncenter.org

No one can ever accuse Rufus Wainwright of lacking ambition. In recent years, he’s gone from reprising Judy Garland’s landmark 1961 concert via Rufus Does Judy at Carnegie Hall to most recently composing and staging the French-sung Prima Donna, Wainwright’s first attempt at composing an opera. The recently-released Out of the Game was produced by Mark Ronson and finds Wainwright delving into  glam-rock influences David Bowie, Queen and Elton John with help from Sean Lennon, Wilco and sister Martha.

Fri. 2.15 - NYC

Lee Fields &The Expressions @Bowery Ballroom

6 Delancey St., 9 p.m. $17 adv. $20 DOS. 866-858-0008 www.boweryball room.com

Not unlike labelmates Sharon Jones and Charles Bradley, Lee Fields was toiling away in obscurity before signing on with Desco and later Daptone Records, two Brooklyn-based imprints dedicated to preserving classic R&B. Fields resume dates back to the early 1970s, where his style and approach to funk was so close to that of James Brown that the younger artist was dubbed “Little J.B.” In the past decade, Fields has been staging a comeback and with his latest band The Expressions, he’s continued to build up his canon with his most recent efforts being 2011’s Treacherous and last year’s Faithful Man. With Ikebe Shakedown.