May 2007

Vieux Farka Touré
World Village 468065
Format: CD
Released: 2007

by Shannon Holliday

Musical Performance ****
Recording Quality ****
Overall Enjoyment ****

Ali Farka Touré, Malian guitarist and world-renowned musician, once said, "The spirit who gave me the gift, I knew him well." "The gift" was a talent for interpreting the musical, cultural, and spiritual voice of Africa from the late '60s until the time of his death in 2006, and he is undoubtedly the most celebrated musician to come out of Mali to date.

That gift has been handed down and its roots remain intact, as is apparent from the self-titled debut release from Ali's son, Vieux Farka Touré. Vieux clearly knew his father's spirit well, and its presence is integral to the son's sound. It appears in influential nuances throughout the disc, but is also present on two tracks when the father and son play together in some of the last recordings made by Ali before his death.

The uncluttered, straightforward arrangement of these ten songs makes for a delicate and perfectly balanced sound. The lead guitar dispatches complex fingering and intricate regional rhythms with ironically sparse acoustic simplicity. Beautiful melodies pour forth from traditional African instruments such as the hjarka, talking drum, ngoni and guinea flute, filling the soundscape with swirling, meditative accents. Farka Touré is joined by guest kora player Toumani Diabaté on two tracks.

Ranging from melodious and lyrical to reggae-tinged and blues inspired; the stylistic scope covered by this Malian newcomer owes its origins to his father's groundwork. By infusing his own spirit and a reverence for that patrimonial heritage, Vieux Farka Touré proves that "desert" or "African blues" is a living, changing, growing sound.