Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Lobi Traoré

  • Segou [Cobalt, 1996] A-
  • Duga [Cobalt, 1999] *
  • Bwati Kono "In the Club" [Kanaga System Krush, 2011] A-
  • Bamako Nights--Live at Bar Bozo 1995 [Glitterbeat, 2013] **

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Segou [Cobalt, 1996]
Like his benefactor and cameo sideman Ali Farka Touré, Traoré is a Malian John Lee Hooker fan. Only he's faster and tighter. And he works with three drummers all the time. And he lets in several second guitarists, none of them Ry Cooder. And although I don't find them in the credits, I swear there are birds backing him on one cut. Supposedly he has something to do with the blues. I hear Wassoulou circle games myself. A-

Duga [Cobalt, 1999]
Mali's eternal round, described with the help of French blues harmonica ("Sogow," "Wolodennu," "Lala"). *

Bwati Kono "In the Club" [Kanaga System Krush, 2011]
Although I've never heard this Malian guitarist's Bamako or Bambara Blues, I admired his quick, clean, tightly hypnotic 1996 Segou--which hardly prepared me for either of the two albums to appear since he died last year at 49. Rainy Season Blues is one of those solo acoustic sitdowns that authenticity fetishists pine for and I'm too crass to get through twice when the songs are in English. This is the opposite--loud, electric band jams from a late-night club in an early-to-bed city and "a well-known Nigerian 'Hotel,'" whatever that means. I do ask myself why I'm more likely to enjoy the form from the number five Malian guitarist than from, say, Jeff Beck. Intensity of self-creation, partly, plus I remain a big Hound Dog Taylor fan. Traore cuts Taylor. But the 10-minute "Ya Time" ("Someone who has lost their mother and father") could actually pass for blues in the land of Ali Farka Toure, which claims blues a lot more often than it gets within 3000 miles of them. A-

Bamako Nights--Live at Bar Bozo 1995 [Glitterbeat, 2013]
For a brief historical moment, working-class Bamako had its own guitar hero ("Banani," "Sigui Nyongon Son Fo") **