New album, recorded in Tour?'s village, is 'raw and rooted at home'

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This is the first album in five years from Tour?, the Malian bluesman who'd rather be farming than making Grammy-winning albums like his last one, Talking Timbuktu, recorded with Ry Cooder. To get the reclusive guitarist on tape, the producers had to bring a sound truck to Tour?, recording this CD on a mobile unit in his far-flung village of Niafunke.

The setting is a big part of the story here, and it captures, hauntingly so, the elemental spirit of chants and trance from which the music comes. I was immediately transported to 'deep Mali,' as he calls his neighborhood on the banks of the Niger, to a casual jam at Ali's place.

Tour?'s elliptical groove is more raw and rooted at home, and when he's joined by waves of call-and-response voices and exotic single-string violins, it's easier than ever to hear the links between rural African song forms and the blues. Tour?'s village doesn't have electricity. As you can hear on this hypnotic CD, they make their own.

FromEscape(July, 1999.) Subscriptions: $18/yr. (4 issues) from Box 462255, Escondido, CA 92046.