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Sidi Toure - Sahel Folk

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Artist: Sidi Toure

Album: Sahel Folk

Label: Thrill Jockey

Review date: Jan. 25, 2011

Singer-songwriter Sidi Toure’s smooth, resonant voice and insistent, steady-rolling guitar offer a warm and intimate version of acoustic Malian music. Sahel Folk captures Toure in the Niger River city of Gao, playing and singing in relaxed, elegant colloquy with an ensemble of fellow travelers. Like Malian blues progenitor Ali Farka Toure, Sidi Toure has fashioned a very personal style and expression that gathers elements from life experience and traditional song and story.

On these particular sessions, the voices and stringed instruments -- acoustic guitars; kurbu, kuntigui -- of his friends are at the heart of a graceful and subtly-changing weave and flow, creating a musical experience that moves through satisfyingly variegated terrain.

The clarity and precision of the guitar lines is often breathtaking. It’s Malian string heaven as the string players ebb and flow, entrain, or change mood and tempo on a dime. Ringing, stinging, bent-bluesy, and hard-pulled guitar notes push to the fore at times, as do the rippling, fast-plucked patterns and pulses of the traditional instruments.

The singers cover varied terrain as well, with voices smooth, soaring, rough and hard, passing words and melodies back and forth. What might be most appealing about this clear and intimate recording is the way it captures not only a wide variety of textures, moods and voices, but also the musicians’ comfortable -- and nonetheless passionate -- virtuosity and elegance of expression.

By Kevin Macneil Brown

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