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Review: Vieux Farka Touré, The Secret

Vieux Farka Touré
The Secret
[Six Degrees Records (2011)]

If that name sounds familiar, well, Vieux Farka Touré is the son of the renowned guitarist Ali Farka Touré from Mali, the West African country much touted as the ultimate home of the blues. While the elder Touré helped to define his country’s musical heritage for the West through his collaborations with guitarist/producer Ry Cooder and blues guitarist Corey Harris, The Secret is about Touré the younger’s connection and outreach to the rock and jam-band world, featuring buzzing electric guitar solos, yet throughout, the album features traditional accompaniment, including calabash and djembe percussion as well as the n’goni, often called the forerunner of the banjo.

A careful sampling of guest musicians helps draw new listeners in. “All the Same,” the collaboration with jam-band favorite Dave Matthews, moves in a laconic lope, with laid-back but insistent drumming from Tim Kelper. “Lakkal (Watch Out),” with guitarist Eric Krasno, a founding member of jam-band jazzers Soulive, cuts possibly the closest to blues as we know them, with the two guitarists trading electric-engulfed riffs. Derek Trucks, who grew up in the Allman Brothers Band, delivers his characteristic quiet but stinging slide guitar riffs for “Aigna.” Jazz guitarist John Scofield’s cut, “Gido,” is large and majestic, with a decidedly East Indian flavor in its quavering guitar figures. The title cut hits closest to the traditional Malian sounds; it features Touré’s father, recorded shortly before he passed away in 2006. Over an insistent flute figure, the guitars of father and son weave together, making it seemingly impossible to determine who is playing what.

The album, which was recorded mostly in Mali but also in Brooklyn, was produced by Krasno. Western listeners familiar with John Lee Hooker’s one-chord boogie will recognize the hypnotic pulse in many of the songs here, with musical movement that keeps circling back, building on itself steadily. The songs burrow; this is deep blues, distant yet familiar.

—Jeff Lindholm (Montpelier, VT)

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2 comments on “Review: Vieux Farka Touré, The Secret

  1. Great review — this is what I read Driftwood for.

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