For those who've had the opportunity to hear Malian guitarist Vieux Farka Touré's burning 2010 Six Degrees' Live album -- or were among the billion people (literally) who saw his performance at the World Cup that year -- you heard or saw a bona fide guitar hero coming into his own. That said, the son of the late Ali Farka Touré has arrived. On The Secret, he's taken his father's meld of Malian rhythms, drones, and melodies with American blues to an entirely new level. While the celebrity guests on this date -- Dave Matthews, Soulive guitarist Eric Krasno (who produced this set), John Scofield, Derek Trucks, and Ivan Neville -- are getting print, these spots only serve to highlight what is already here: original guitar music of such fluidity, technique, rhythmic invention, and passion, that it is virtually unequaled, with Farka Touré rightfully on the verge of becoming a bona fide star worldwide because he has further woven Malian music into a distinctive meld of rock, funk, jazz, and blues, with a pyrotechnic style that is never overexposed. While his previous recordings highlighted his vocals as much as his guitar playing, The Secret showcases his scorching six-string innovations. "All the Same," with Matthews on vocals, is being released as a single, but it's one of the least interesting -- if one of the catchiest -- cuts here. The interplay between acoustic and electric guitars, hand percussion, and vocals on opener "Sokosondou" puts Farka Touré's considerable showmanship on fiery display, while the driving, nocturnal brooding meld of funk, jazz, and Malian blues on "Gido" (with Scofield) revels in the startling affinity between the two players. The title cut -- the last recorded performance of Ali and Vieux -- juxtaposes two very complex rhythmic styles with the younger Farka Touré's more intricate melodic sensibility underscoring the elder's modal sensibility. (The track is made even more infectious by Chieck Diallo's hypnotic flute playing adding yet another melodic line.) "Lakkal [Watch Out]," with Krasno, with its big kit drums, 12-bar blues, and B-3 grooves, contrasts two very distinct players in sharp contrast to one another in a trance-like exercise. The closessesd with the ballad "Touri," with Farka Touré's gorgeous baritone vocal moaning passionately over a chanted backing chorus, in what can only be described as Malian soul music. The Secret is a giant leap forward for Farka Touré as an artist to be sure; but it's a stone killer for listeners.
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AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek