Vieux Farka Toure ‘Fondo’ (Six Degrees) 4/5

Following up the 2006 debut comes this new recording once again showcasing Vieux Farka Toure’s own compositions and a well rounded and varied album it is at that. Help is on the way from an array of Mali’s top musicians including long time collaborator with and student of of Ali Farka Toure, vocalist Afel Bocoum, and ace kora player Toumani Diabate. Vieux is certainly expanding his musical influences on ‘Fonda’ and one of the album’s highlights and strongest cuts is ‘Diaraby’ where dub meets Malian blues head on with heavy percussion that takes a leaf out of Brazilian samba. This is definitely an avenue that Vieux should explore further in subsequent albums. In a more traditional vein, but no less stunning, is the beautiful duet between guitar and kora with Toumani Diabate on ‘Paradise’. A tribute to the motherland on ‘Mali’features a funky bass and guitar riff with n’goni combining to great effect. By contrast one of the album’s instrumental tracks, ‘Slow jam’ is a lingering blues-inflected piece with the focus firmly on Vieux’s guitar skills. Moroccan gnawa is hinted at on ‘Sarama’ with reggae riffs emerging on ‘Al Haira’. A sense of urgency is conveyed on the uptempo ‘Cherie Le’ with nice guitar solo. In general it is the subtle combination of modern western and Malian influences that differentiates Vieux from his father, though the west African roots are always present even in the background. A beautifully illustrated digipak gatefold sleeve provides striking images of Vieux in his home environment. Ali’s son has definitely come of age on this album and provides evidence of how his future sound may evolve.

Tim Stenhouse

Follow up to his 2006 debut and it’s a solid step forward with the desert blues so much the trademark of his late father now broadened out by the introduction of more modern influences. Check out the dubby ‘Diaraby Magni’ for an idea of the newer influences and ‘Wale’ for the traditional side of things, including guest vocals from Afel Bocoum and ‘Paradise’ with Toumani Diabate guesting. Highly recommended.

Graham Radley