That 2022’s GET ON BOARD is Ry Cooder and Taj Mahal’s first collaboration in more than 50 years is trivia and nothing more—these guys have sounded ancient since they were teenagers, and, like the folk-blues legends Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee to whom they pay tribute here, they never cared about trend or passage of time such as it pertains to art. Even those only glancingly exposed to American folk music know these songs: “Pick a Bale of Cotton,” “Drinkin’ Wine Spo-Dee-O-Dee,” “I Shall Not Be Moved,” “The Midnight Special.” And while artists like Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf followed the raw, modern sound of the electric guitar, Terry and McGhee remained stubbornly unplugged, as connected to the white folk of Pete Seeger as the Black blues of their Southern forebears. Some songbooks come alive with fresh interpretation; GET ON BOARD does its source justice by doing nearly nothing at all.

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