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Putumayo Presents | African Blues

album review by John Powell

Putumayo Presents | African Blues

What a superbly chill record! Putumayo is famous for their compilations, the ones that show up in worldly stores, fair trade stores, etc. The truth is that each Putumayo record is made with care and consideration, their themes explored and their essence maintained. The value of the music is never exploited, and African Blues continues the thread, only this time, for blues lovers.

Follow music history, and blues is founded on some of the rhythmic and thematic principles of most African music, piled on beats, quiet solos, slow churning grooves, and lyrics about hard times. Therefore, the sounds combine with ease, and instead of feeling like forced blues (an initial reaction), the concept of what blues is quickly burned away.

Mali Latino starts us off with “Ni Koh Bedy”, filled with lightly strummed acoustic, rhoades gurgling underneath full on bass and a slinky groove. It barely builds, relying heavily on the drums to pursue the energy. The music captures the heart of blues, bringing in few bits of what we’d consider “African-sounding music”.

Diabel Cissokho’s “Totoumo”, on the other hand, sets slide guitar against n’goni, and pumping bass with hand percussion, injecting West African folk music with blues for a wonderful result. While it’s called “the blues”, much of this album has an upbeat feel, summery too.

Amar Sundy turns the tables with “Camel Shuffle”. Flute and hand percussion give an East African flare to the organ and guitar, both of which sizzle together for three minutes of jamming. Playing For Change also offers a instrumental, “Groove in G”, which takes home the prize for Best Jam Out of Nowhere. For five minutes the group builds on a groove so loose and gritty it’s a cowboy’s answer to African jam.

On “Dhow Countries” Taj Mahal Meets the Culture Musical Club of Zanzibar, and purs his famous blues over the band’s strings and guitar flourishes. Taj brings in his very roots Americana love of soul.

Yet the highlight is definitely Adama Yalomba’s “Djamakoyo”. His voice is infectious and the music is African blues at its best, simmering and bouncing along the bass’s staccato riff. It’s epitomizes the album’s sincerity, selecting songs that elevate the sound and showcase the subgenre’s engineers.

Overall, Putumayo scores again. The sound is perfect, the order of songs a perfect mix tape, the music beautiful, and the production of everything down to the cover art is excellent. If you are getting into this sound, African Blues is a list of who to look up, and if you collect Putumayo albums then you’ll be stoked to hear another home run.

Bottom line: Putumayo does it again: Stars and underdogs unite for a showcase of African Blues.

Comments  

 
0 # Beats Instrumentals 2014-04-30 00:01
This is a topic which is close to my heart... Many thanks!
Exactly where are your contact details though?
 

 

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