Words by Nigel Williamson
The desert bluesiest desert blues album ever
Born to a Touareg mother and European father, Faris Amine has hit upon a unique twist to the desert rock phenomenon, which makes his album pleasingly different from the glut of copycat Touareg guitar releases that has followed the crossover success of Tinariwen, in much the same way that the market was flooded by antique Cuban albums post-Buena Vista Social Club.
Faris takes ten classic blues songs, with roots in the experience of black sharecroppers on the Mississippi plantations and repatriates them to the African desert, translating the lyrics into Tamasheq and accompanying himself on guitar in a hybrid style that combines the loping assouf with the bottleneck slide of Robert Johnson and the original Delta bluesmen.
On Son House’s ‘Death Letter’ (reinvented as ‘Oulhawen win Tidit’) and Vera Hall’s ‘Trouble So Hard’ (famously sampled by Moby), the Touareg template rules. On other tracks, such as Skip James’ ‘Hard Times Killing Floor Blues’ it’s the Delta that dominates. Then on ‘Jesus is on the Mainline’ (renamed ‘Aghregh Yallah’) and Muddy Waters’ ‘Feel Like Going Home’ (‘Oulh Essayaq’) the traditions of Mississippi and the Sahara are stitched seamlessly together in perfect calibration. Faris’ album may just be the most satisfying fusion of its kind since Ali Farka Touré and Ry Cooder’s Talking Timbuktu more than 20 years ago.
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