Friday, May 20, 2011

In review--Malian blues

Vieux Farka Toure
The Secret
Six Degrees Records

This gem of a Malian blues CD has been sitting in my CD basket for a week.  It’s not that I don’t appreciate hearing the blues, but that up until now the rain and trying to keep my spirits up, kept me away from listening to a blues recording.  But we’ve had a week of sunny days so I popped Vieux Farka Toure’s The Secret into my player.  I realize that it’s a cliché to call it snaky desert blues, except that’s exactly what you get with this recording. 

 Tough, Malian blues riffs and what other journalists call chunky.  You’ll recognize the blues chord progressions, but if you’ve not heard the Malian blues yet, the vocals will sound more Arabic than like American blues, plus they're sung in French and Malian dialects.  And on Gido, featuring John Scofield, sounds Arabic-Andalusian.  The album features several guitarists and any guitarist worth his or her salt will gravitate towards The Secret.  I imagine that some of those guitarists will learn a thing or two listening to this album too.  The baby boomers had Jimi Hendrix and younger generations have Vieux Farka Toure and other Malian blues guitarists of his generation.

Thanks to Vieux’s father, the late Ali Farka Toure and bands such as Tinariwen, the desert blues has attracted an international audience representing diverse age groups.  While the songs on this recording would entice a music festival audience, even slipping this disc in a portable player on a sunny, languid day would do the trick.  Vieux proves on this international recording that the fruit doesn’t fall far from the tree, especially when it has its roots in Mali.