Taj Mahal is not only the name of one of the world's most famous structures as well as an Atlantic City casino, the Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort, but it is also the stage name of one of the pre-eminent blues musicians still active and touring.

But while Taj Mahal the musician, who comes to the Bull Run in Shirley on Wednesday, Feb. 6, has won two Grammy Awards (best contemporary blues album in 1997 and 2000), perhaps you didn't know that the 70-year-old Henry Saint Clair Fredericks, Jr. grew up in Springfield.

He worked at a firm in Palmer as a teenager before attending the University of Massachusetts, earning a degree in animal husbandry with a minor in veterinary science and agronomy. He soon left for the West Coast and never came back to live here, although he has toured and played throughout New England constantly over his 50-year career.

He's played with Ry Cooder, Howlin' Wolf, Buddy Guy, Muddy Waters and the Rolling Stones in the 60s and 70s and more recently with Eric Clapton, Etta James, Cyndi Lauper, Levon Helm and The Chieftains.

In 2006, he earned the distinction of official Blues Artist of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and while he regularly tours through New England, it's not often he comes to the Merrimack Valley so check him out at the Bull Run next week.

Taj Mahal plays at the Bull Run Restaurant in Shirley on Wednesday, Feb. 6, at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $75 and can be purchased by phone at 978-425-4311, online at www.bullrunrestaurant.com or at the box office.


Two for the road

Had the chance to check out Lynyrd Skynyrd at the Lowell Memorial Auditorium two weekends ago and have to say that they sound as good as ever.

Knocked by some as a cover band (primarily because the band only includes one original member and the fact that lead singer Johnny Van Zant is the brother of late lead singer Ronnie Van Zant), the band lists some top-notice musicians who tore through classics "Sweet Home Alabama," "Gimme Three Steps" and, of course, show-closer "Free Bird."

The band is planning to tour with Bad Company this summer and that promises to be a must-see show.

Also trekked up to Salisbury on Friday night to see 90s hit-makers the Gin Blossoms at Blue Ocean Music Hall in Salisbury. I was pleased to see that the show sold out and can tell you that everyone who bought a ticket made it to the show. The venue, definitely a great place to catch a show in a relaxed setting with great acoustics, was rocking from the first notes through the "Follow You Down" finale.

Robin Wilson sounded pitch-perfect on lead vocals while guitarist and songwriter Jesse Valenzuela provided the backing sound and supporting vocals just as he did two decades ago. Wilson did a great job working the room, offering up tambourines to anyone near the stage who wanted to participate and the band ripped through all of their hits ("Alison Road," "Hey Jealousy" and "Found Out About You") as well as lesser-known, but no less impressive cuts.

It's been awhile since the Blossoms came through the Northeast (last year's Summerland package tour notwithstanding) and who knows when they will again, but definitely check them out if you liked their '90s hits.

Ed Hannan can be reached at edhannan@gmail. com or through his For the Record blog at blogs.lowellsun.com/for therecord.