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Toubab Krewe | TK2 | Album Review

Album Review by John Powell

Let’s discuss one of 2010’s best albums, Toubab Krewe’s TK2, an hour-long musical journey through time and space across the globe. The band’s second full-length album, TK2 arrives after five years of intense touring from the Asheville, North Carolina-based group, and the time spent on the jam circuit, meeting a variety of other artists in their boat of genre-bending, world-music progresses, has created a wonderful exploration of musicality.

Toubab Krewe TK2 | Album Review | Angelica Music

What do I mean by this? Let’s start with “Mariama”, the opening track that features a new instrument for Toubab Krewe: keyboards. The band, based in traditional West-African sounds with kora, hand percussion such as djembe and dundun, a drum kit, heavy bass, and guitar, has added a piano’s eerie plunk, resembling a burlesque, speakeasy joint theme song. Enter the rest of the band, thumping like the walk of a slinky bride of Frankenstein, an Adams Family soundtrack B-side. It’s a wild invitation to the album, a surprise for long-time fans that have 2005’s Toubab Krewe memorized.

Another twist is “Carnivalito”. While Toubab Krewe has always been able to blend surfer rock and zydeco into their West-African roots, they oftentimes hinted at a love of cowboy, dusty road melody, and this time it comes to the forefront. “Carnivalito” deserves a video montage of great Western moments, gunfights, card games gone awry, and a lot of sombrero-sporting rancheros with thievery in their eyes.

What has always made their traditional Mali sound adaptable to jam band audiences is electric jamming. Even the kamelngoni is amplified, but “Kokono” is a very sparse appreciation for the quieter grooves. Bassist Dave Pranski’s bass is especially righteous in this revelatory tune. It bounces like a jeep over dunes. Multi-layered percussion by Teal Brown and Luke Quaranta adds jittery glitter. It’s a more “traditional” take on Toubab, meaning the whole concept of their music comes full circle.

“NTB”, however, is the key track, a soaring rocker with a contra-rhythm provided by Justin Perkins on guitar while Drew Heller cuts loose. I picture his guitar catching on fire halfway through. The jam is surfer/rock reminiscent, but it’s got punk drive to it. I would rob a bank to this song, for sure.

In fact, all of TK2 is a soundtrack to the life of a hero on the edge of society. He’s sharp, charming, and cunning, a bit raucous and whole lot of attitude, but he knows how to have a good time. “NTB”, coming directly after the softer and muggier “Mariama,” hits like a fist through a window.

By the same token, “Area Code”, a song Toubab has performed live for a while now, and has set to recording in mid-tempo, begins slowly, atmospheric, and is another hit for the album. The dueling guitar and kora produce a delectable vibe while the rest of the band seems to hum behind them. Four minutes in, however, Teal begins a slowly growing roll on his snare, followed by Luke’s djembe call, and the tone changes. Things richen, ripen, and growl heavier, like BOOM heavier. “Area Code” is a classic Toubab song, rising and falling like a sunset on a desert planet.

TK2 is on Nat Geo Music, National Geographic’s non-profit record company dedicated to world music. That this big name company has taken on Toubab Krewe is proof that the band, though a bunch of Southern-type rompers, all with wry grins and accentuated by Justin’s cowboy boots, sum up to something much more than their parts. They love combining sounds. They are a melting pot of music, but always sound like Toubab. It’s no easy feat.

I highly recommend you buy TK2 and see what I mean for yourself.

Purchase TK2 here


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