written by: Tony Gill
Blues and Gospel heavyweights headline spring music slate.
Not to throw shade at The Infamous Stringdusters or DJ Mom Jeans, but sometimes we just need a refreshing break from the rotating lineup of mountain-town bluegrass musicians and trendy DJs who dominate Park City’s winter lineup. Sweet relief is coming as blues legend Taj Mahal and gospel virtuosos The Blind Boys of Alabama take center stage in March and April.
Taj Mahal is up first on Saturday, March 25, with a show presented by the Park City Institute at the Eccles Center Theater. The Harlem-born musician has spent nearly five decades transforming the possibilities of traditional American blues by incorporating world-music influences from the Caribbean, Africa and the South Pacific into his work. It’s not only the sounds, but also the content that distinguishes Taj Mahal’s blues, as the subject matter defies convention by eschewing the “woe is me” sentiments of some of his contemporaries. Be forewarned if you’re planning on a passive listening experience: Taj Mahal wants to bring an energetic, engaging experience to the audience, and he wants them to give it back. He told Vancouver’s The Georgia Straight in 2006, “That’s why I like to play outdoor festivals—because people will just dance. Theater audiences need to ask themselves, ‘What the hell is going on? We’re asking these musicians to come and perform and then we sit there and draw all the energy out of the air.’” So bring some energy and witness one of history’s greatest blues musicians for yourself. George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Center: 1750 Kearns Blvd., Park City, 435-655-3114. ecclescenter.org
Five-time Grammy-winning gospel crooners The Blind Boys of Alabama keep the good times going with a set of four shows from April 6-9 at the Egyptian Theatre. Lead singer Jimmy Carter was one of the band’s founding members in the late 1930, and he’s still fronting the latest iteration of the group that has evolved from playing for World War II-era soldiers to touring gospel music through the Jim Crow-era South to winning a slew of Grammy awards in the in the 2000s and even releasing a Christmas album, “Talking Christmas,” with the aforementioned Taj Mahal in 2014. But throughout the group’s evolution, they’ve never deviated from staying true to their gospel roots. The Blind Boys of Alabama have long been champions for people with disabilities. Percussionist Ricky McKinnie told Mother Jones in 2011, “It’s not about what you can’t do. It’s about what you do. And what we do is sing good gospel music.”
Egyptian Theatre: 328 Main Street, Park City, 435-649-9371. Egyptiantheatrecompany.org