In Europe and the U.S., the Malian singer/songwriter Boubacar Traoré tends to be marketed as a sort of bluesman -- perhaps because his band prominently features the harmonica, and perhaps because his songs are dark and spare. But his latest album seldom if ever makes use of any of the conventions of the blues; the 12-bar chord progression on which the blues is based never appears, and Traoré's guitar style owes far more to the kora-wielding griots of his native country than to the emotive, string-bending bluesmen of the American south. That said, there are moments when echoes of the Delta do resonate at the back of his songs, as on the repeated minor-scale riffs that power the regretful title track and "Horonia." But throughout the whole album Traoré's sound is gentle and subdued, even on relatively upbeat songs like "Kanou" and the softly chugging "Dounia Tabolo." His backing ensemble, which includes accordion, marimba, gourd, and small harp as well as harmonica, supports him with exquisite delicacy and taste, most notably on the lovely patriotic anthem "Indépendance." Also worth noting: the quiet but thornily intricate rhythmic pattern underlying "Sougourouni Saba." Highly recommended.
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AllMusic Review by Rick Anderson