Taking a break from the On Spec series today, in order to share how damn excited I am about this new album from Mali’s Songhoy Blues! Of course, we have 1537 to thank for our introduction to this excellent group, so, thank you sir! Now, according to Amazon, this dropped back in June of 2017. How did I miss this? Shame!
Voter is damn funky, with that skittery guitar line and the anchoring bass line my goodness. But then it just achieves lift off and rocks the hell out before shifting again… Yes! What an opening track! Bamako keeps the 70s soul funk alive, with horns! The beat is relentless and that jangly guitar sends shivers up my spine! Sahara features an appearance by Iggy Pop, whose drawl off the top, and his verse contributions, are classic Iggy. “… no Kentucky Fried Chicken! No!” The band kills it with a swaggering tune and wailing guitar lines that captures the feel of the desert over top of a grooving bluesy rock beat.
Yersi Yadda starts off gentle, but builds into a rapidfire funk guitar-driven bounce track, and again with the horns! And cowbell! If this amazing track doesn’t make you move or dance, you must be dead. What a groove! And that guitar solo is crazy-good. Wow. Hometown’s bluesy acoustic intro, complete with noodling electric over top, has a satisfying shuffle to it, the group vocals backing up the single voice in a wonderful singalong. I loved the violin line too, not an instrument I associate with something this bluesy, but it totally works here. Badji gives all indications it may be a ballad, that sweet slow movement to it… but wait! It quickly hops into a crazy time-signature workout that has so much love and bounce to its infectiousness. Fun! Dabari brings back the 70s soul jamming with that relentless beat and the rock feel married well to that desert bounce. It ha sa wee breakdown of beauty with about a minute to go, but don’t worry, you’re rocking again by the end!
Ici Bas bashes away with a slinky rockin’ intro, then shifts happily into a tighter, closer, beat that (once again) makes it impossible for you to sit still. I friggin’ loved this one! Ir Ma Sobay brings the jazzy swing and a machine-gun guitar line over top as the vocals grab your ear. Just before the two minute mark the drums double-time and there’s a wild string solo while the dance elevates. Goddamn, this band just throws down groove after groove and it’s stunning!
Mali Nord features London’s Elf Kid (MC with The Square) and has a happy pop sound to it, complete with strummed almost-Buddy Holly guitar bit. The horns glue it all together, and the lead guitar rips out stellar solos as if it were the easiest thing in the world. Elf Kid’s vocal section fits the tune well enough, but for myself, I was happier when it switched back to Songhoy Blues’ vocalist. Alhakou offers up a gorgeous bluesy groove over which the group vocals anchor the solo vocals and it all goes together so well it’s brilliance. And finally, One Colour is a guitar workout with a solid bassline and yet another swingin’ bluesy rock tune. Love the reverb on this one, and there’s even a children’s choir.
On the back cover, Songhoy Blues writes:
Songhoy Blues has always been about resistance. We started the group during a civil war, in the face of a music ban, to create something positive out of adversity. As long as we have music left in us and something to say, we’ll keep fighting each day with music as our weapon, our songs as our resistance.
Right on, brothers. With efforts like this, the world will come together, and we will all hail you kings and give thanks!
This is a record of resistance. It’s a guitar record (the solos all over this thing are So. Damn. Good). For most of it, I could not understand the words, but it didn’t matter a lick. The incredible music lifts you, transports you, pulls you in and fills you with its holy fervour, leaving you breathless, sweaty, and completely suffused with happiness.
You need to buy this album. One of the best of 2017, hands-down!