Vieux Farka Toure – Samba

Album Review | Six Degrees Records | Review by Allan Wilkinson | Stars: 4/5

You only ever get one chance at a first impression and so to take advantage of the full impact of your first impression of this wonderful album, I suggest you turn the volume up to eleven, especially on “Homafu Wawa”, with its homage to Bob Marley’s “I Shot the Sheriff” in its opening riff. There’s ten tracks here to get your teeth into, each one exemplifying Vieux Farka Toure’s hard-edged musical prowess, helped in no small part by the dozen musicians and singers employed to good use here. Produced in collaboration with Eric Herman, Samba sounds fresh and vibrant, with a raw energy that you feel through your vibrating speakers (I’m taking it as read that you turned it up to eleven as suggested?) It’s certainly not full-on Malian rock and roll throughout and in places we see some undisguised tipping of the hat to Vieux’s late father Ali Farka Toure, especially on “Reconnaissance” and “Ni Negaba”, both of which almost sends a shiver; there are definitely ghosts in this music. The album was recorded as part of the Woodstock Sessions, which is in effect a live studio set-up in Saugerties, New York, with an audience invited specifically to observe the recording process, in effect creating a live experience too. The title, which translates in Songhai to ‘second born’, indicates quite rightly that Vieux is the second son of the legendary Malian guitarist and despite having some of that influence ingrained in the material here, Vieux Farka Toure’s own individual musical sensibility naturally comes to the fore. The sense of family runs through with “Mariam”, a song dedicated to the women of his native Mali and in particular to his own younger sister of that name, featuring Idan Raichel on keyboards. Released just in time for his UK summer tour, Samba is sure to bring more than just a flavour of a Mali to our shores. A really terrific record.