Words by Howard Male
From the opening notes of Vieux Farka Touré’s spare acoustic guitar riff, backed by fellow Souleymane Kane’s gently tapped calabash drum, there’s something very pure of spirit about this album. Then there comes a gentle torrent of piano notes from Israel’s Idan Raichel, like waves lapping up onto a beach. The final ingredient in the collective is bassist Yossi Fine who, like all good bassists, adds ballast and swing with workman-like efficiency. And thus the scene is pretty much set for the rest of this acoustic but nevertheless often energetically muscular album.
Raichel is a big star in his homeland, but his playing is wholly devoid of flashiness or self-indulgence. Likewise, Farka Touré does his deceased father proud by reining in the rock histrionics and playing some of his most controlled and bluesy guitar to date. Standout tracks include ‘Alkataou’ with its Middle Eastern vibe and sense of profound drama, and the uptempo Mali-meets-the-Mississippi blues track ‘Touré’ which features some fierce, mercurial harmonica playing from French virtuoso Frédéric Yonnet.
Although the album grew out of jam sessions played purely for the pleasure of playing, the end result is architecturally robust and infused with strong emotive melodies. These melodies are always the focus because each of these master musicians has realised that the importance is the end product they are conjuring together rather than the needs of their egos; a rare thing indeed amongst jamming musicians. This is a delightful, soulful debut album that exudes optimism.