Ali Farka Touré

Red & Green

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By the mid-'90s, Malian guitarist Ali Farka Touré was expanding his signature acoustic African blues by changing his instrumental palette and collaborating with Western musicians like Ry Cooder (as on 1994's Talkin' Timbuktu). While Touré gained prominence during this period, many die-hard fans tout the artist's earliest work as his strongest. The double-disc set Red & Green brings together two albums originally released by the French label Sonodisc between the mid- and late '80s. The original vinyl versions were long out of print and difficult to find, until their issue here on Nonesuch. Both albums are entirely acoustic (Touré didn't introduce an electric guitar until 1991's The Source), with minimal accompaniment on calabash and ngoni (a traditional four-string guitar), which perfectly complements Touré's percussive guitar style and plaintive, keening vocals. The music bears a striking resemblance to the modal blues of American artists like Son House and John Lee Hooker, yet it is deeply West African, with scales and motivic flourishes indigenous to the culture, and lyrical themes that reflect Touré's life in rural Mali. Red & Green is a must for Touré fans: a blissful, early dose of this singular artist's superb music.

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