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Rising Sons

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Rising Sons was a short-lived mid-1960s blues and R&B group, featuring Ry Cooder and Taj Mahal.
The Rising Sons are one of the great what-might-have-been stories of Sixties rock. For a few brief moments in 1965 and ‘66, the Sons were the club band to beat in Los Angeles, tearing it up with a dynamic ménage à trois of ardent folk-blues scholarship, brawny Delta grind and Beatlesque pop vigor. But after a lone Columbia single flopped and a projected album was scrapped, the Sons broke up and became a legend of sorts, famous mostly for their future cachet. Bluesman Taj Mahal, then fresh from the Boston hootenanny scene, was one of the Sons’ two singers; roots-guitar god Ry Cooder, still in his teens at the time, was the band’s prodigious lead picker.

The Sons deserved better. These twenty-two rousing and mostly unreleased performances from the Columbia vaults show the Rising Sons to be the missing link between Beatlemania and the late-Sixties electric-blues explosion, an exciting, highly commercial proposition that missed stardom by just a hairbreadth. They turn vintage black-cat moans like Sleepy John Estes’s “If the River Was Whiskey (Divin’ Duck Blues)” and the Reverend Gary Davis’s “Candy Man” into ebullient Hollywood party soul, with Cooder’s spidery, purist chops betraying the twangy influence of George Harrison, while Taj Mahal spikes the band’s Sunset Strip mix with his own Beale Street-style howl. “Statesboro Blues” (heard in two zesty readings) cooks like the Cavern-era Beatles with a hellhound on their trail.

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