Old friends and new lend the great guitarist a hand
The first album in four years from this much-loved Malian singer and guitarist finds him on fairly familiar ground, but still making music that has the power to engage. And with a surprise or two up his sleeves. For the past few years, he’s been working with harmonica player Vincent Bucher, who makes the connection between the blues and Malian music more explicit than ever with his skilfully nuanced blowing on ‘Sagnon Moni’. On ‘Bembalisso’, ‘Saya Temokoto’, ‘Africa’ and the title-track, percussionist Babah Kone ably helps the maestro put a spring in his step. The other key collaborators are ngoni player Oumar Barou and kora player Ballaké Sissoko, who co-produces with Christian Mousset.
Soumaila Diabaté makes ‘Mbalimaou’ a definite highlight, with his deft bowing of the rustic sokou (one-stringed fiddle). Bucher’s blues harp seems slightly superfluous on the new interpretation of ‘Mariama’, which isn’t as haunting as the iconic version on Boubacar’s wonderful 1990 debut for Stern’s. But overall, this is a solid new album.