Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide by Review Date: 2011-07-26

2011-07-26

Sorry Bamba: Volume One 1970-1979 (Thrill Jockey, 2011) Before there was a Rail Band, this nobly born singer-trumpeter-flutist led a dance troupe and a musical ensemble in the provincial Malian city of Mopti. The Rail Band was more elegant and complex--Bamba was no Salif Keita or Mory Kante vocally, and when Rail Band stalwart Kanté Manfila steps up for a track here, the delicacy of his guitar technique makes for a nice change. Bamba doesn't put forth a consistent sound. He was in show business, and though his core audience was more provincial than the travelers who came through Bamako station, they liked having clave and Ethiopian horns and baby-got-back mixed in with their griot-approved staples. But that's a positive--fun, really. Combined with amenities only Bamba could provide--his trumpet, his flute, his specialty in Dogon culture, and most spectacularly a thousand-year-old showpiece featuring an impossible hectoring chant for a long-departed emir--the groove that asserts itself has crude satisfactions all its own. A-

Lobi Traoré: 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-

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