Bombino

Nomad

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Born in northern Niger, Bombino is an ethnic Tuareg, a nomadic tribe spread out across the Sahara Desert, and if he inherited a steady urge for going, it shows in his guitar playing, which is informed by the fluid, melodic, and graceful style of so many great African guitarists. But he's also listened and studied the playing of Jimi Hendrix and Mark Knopfler closely, and maybe a little of J.J. Cale, too, another man whose guitar style embraces a sharp, dusty-tinged desert tone, and somehow out of all this, Bombino emerges as a sort of Dick Dale of the Sahara, with a guitar style that is uniquely all his own. For this, his second album, Bombino traveled to Nashville to record with the Black Keys' Dan Auerbach, and the result is a marvelous set, full of grit and funky elegance, a kind of mesh of Tuareg rhythms with Deep South delta country trance blues, and psychedelic, too, as if Jimi Hendrix and John Lee Hooker somehow got spliced together. It's a wonderful listen from start to finish, with heavily echoed vocals, and layers of snaky, sinewy guitar lines that build and weave, separate and expand as each track goes on, until everything seems to burst transformed into the immense sonic space of an ocean, or a desert, for that matter. Although Bombino is a very political songwriter, he keeps his lyrics and melodies taut, giving his graceful, spiraling, and relentless guitar riffs plenty of room to do their thing. Highlights include the thickly chugging garage guitar epic "Amidine" that opens the set, the amazing serpentine guitar lines of "Imuhar," the back porch Sahara country sound of "Imidwan," and the lovely "Tamiditine," which closes things out, but everything here certainly belongs and contributes to the rich, gritty, and ultimately joyous tone of this wonderful album.

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