Ali Farke Toure Savane

For his last album, recorded shortly before his death earlier this year, Ali Farka Toure seems to have found an even greater sense of blues than ever before. In some respects, ever since Talking Timbuktu with Ry Cooder, Toure’s albums have focused more on his Malian heritage, his pastoral living situation, and local musical collaborators than playing up his unquestioned kinship with American blues. Savane is a remarkable album that has it both ways, evoking the deepest blues of his long career within a kaleidoscope of Malian musicians. Together with violin, n’goni and balafon, there are many layers of sonority in this recording. The success through dissonance approach of Konono No. 1 has influenced a range of African productions to play up the African tunings of the arrangements. The opening cut is a conversation-stopper: "Erdi” features the soulful harmonica of Little George Sueref and just drips with Delta feeling — either the Mississippi or Niger, take your pick. Toure’s licks sting a little harder throughout the record — this was recorded weeks before his death, and he knew it. The lyrics (explained by Toure in the notes) are vivid impressions of local custom and activities, plus some "all time Malian classics” designed to keep history vital for younger generations. Toure always believed that Mali was the original home of the blues, but that his music represented a full circle with his American influences. Savane is a career-ending exclamation that underlines his point for posterity. (Nonesuch)