Ebo Taylor, Appia Kwa Bridge

Chris Nickson

By Chris Nickson

on 04.17.12 in Reviews

At 76, Ebo Taylor has more musical bounce to the ounce than most performers half his age. The veteran of Ghanaian highlife music only enjoyed his first international release two years ago (the excellent Love and Death), and now he’s returned to funk up West African music even more with an album named for the place where young lovers meet in his village — and the outlook here is definitely youthful. The opener, “Ayesama,” provides the perfect calling card, tracing the lines connecting highlife and soul, as guest drummer Tony Allen lays down the steaming groove under call and response vocals and horns strut around as if they were a Crescent City second line. “Abonsam” does the same for blues, giving Taylor the chance to show off some of his ample fretboard chops.

Continuing to funk up West African music

The whole album’s a highlife celebration, the grooves always elastic enough to encourage plenty of blowing from Taylor’s excellent German band, but still tight enough to keep the feet moving and the sweat flowing. Taylor revisits his past on “Kruman Dey,” a reworked cut from his ’70s heyday that explodes from the speakers like one of the glories of Stax. But his trawl of the roots goes even deeper with “Yaa Amponsah,” one of highlife’s foundation stones, first recorded almost 90 years ago. With just Taylor’s voice and softly picked electric guitar, it’s a stark, spare contrast to most of the disc, melodic and sweet, the rhythm lulling and swaying, a reminder of the music’s history. He takes the solo spotlight again for the closer “Barrima,” a grief-filled tribute to his wife that transcends language in its emotion. It’s a beautiful, loving end to a joyous, spirited record.