The Stony Plain label, justly famed for myriad expositions of roots music via a cascade of legendary long-timers and incandescent newcomers is, in Brothers in Bamako by Habib Koité and Eric Bibb, lately giving the excellent Putamayo label a run for the money by releasing this compendium of mellifluous, enchanting, sigh-filled evocations of beauty, reminiscence, reflection, and humane commentary. Chiefly just the two gents Koité and Bibb singing and fingerpicking, with some session work added in here and there, the sound field is magically filled with delicate scintillating guitar work and light flowing vocals. Once the amber tones of Bamako disc start wafting through the room, everyone's gonna lighten up and smile.
The affinities between this blend of South African, folk, and blues musics is strongly mirrored in South American strains as well, in the gentler, easier-going selections from the samba / bossa / etc. catalogue. More than once, I was also reminded of recent excellent releases by James Lee Stanley and John Batdorf, and a number of times I found my fingers snapping oh so coolly, just like a Djavan LP was playing. The threads to Nick Drake are just as evident as there's a consummate ethereality running throughout the CD—whether you care to attribute it to a more cosmic mindset or not is your decision, but Donovan had a number of cuts that still ring down the years and are extremely kindred to Bamako atmospheres.
Taj Mahal and the like have sewn this kind of highly attractive strain into their repertoires, but Koité & Bibb present an entire 13-cut delicacy before us, and one can very easily drift off to sleep while listening, carried away from the clamor and insistence of the wearying world. Bamako reminds us that not everything is stress, furious intensity, and callousness, the disc gently beckoning one and all back to their human sides, where we live for the pleasure of living alone. Listeners know that any CD can be a risk—it might be 30% good, 50%, whatever—but this is one is a 100%-er, plain pure heaven. You might even call it medicine.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2012, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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