Wednesday, December 21, 2011
Ali Farka Touré (1988)
Quite remarkable breakthrough from the great Malian guitarist is purely and simply a blues album; no one can hear it without mentioning the grand conflict of whether this is a direct aping of John Lee Hooker or if Hooker's entire body of work -- and American blues as a whole by extension -- is merely an articulation of its African ancestry. Whatever the case, this burst onto the worldwide scene with blues and world music aficionados both with good reason: the songs are densely layered despite the simplicity of the recording sessions, and the music is in the end as immediately accessible to one reared on Western pop music, old and new, as anything in modern West African recording -- making this album a fine way in for an entire universe of music too seldom investigated by the American pop audience. (I'm guilty myself.)
The guitar work drones, plucks, and hypnotizes lovingly, but for me the highlight of the record is Touré's voice, an irresistible instrument that wraps most agreeably around the sparse arrangements of these sumptuously evocative songs. The beats are invisible, though you feel them in your bones, but the singing is an act of nuanced, explicit love.