If the late, great Ali Farka Touré has a spiritual heir, it’s Samba Touré — who’s no relation, despite the name. Samba was a protégé of the godfather of Mali’s desert blues and the sinewy guitar textures and incisive licks he brings to his lean, loping songs are eerily reminiscent of Ali Farka. Samba’s third release, though, shows he’s shaping up to be a towering figure in his own right, with a style very much his own.
That’s most evident on “Idjé Lalo,” which starts out as a lovely, swirling mass of sound, guitar, ngoni lute and sokou violin playing against each other to psychedelic effect before resolving into a relentless groove. As with most the material here, it draws lyrical inspiration from the fractured state of Mali, where a military coup in 2012 brought an abrupt end to democracy. The only track Touré didn’t write is “Fondora” — “Leave Our Road” – a traditional tune to which he’s put new words. Recorded in late 2012 when Islamist forces were taking over northern Mali, it’s an impassioned plea for peace, with a refrain of “I say, leave our road/ All killers, leave our road,” and a spare, looping riff that conjures up the wide spaces of Mali’s desert region.
This is a wonderfully mature album, one where less is often more — a lesson Touré has absorbed from his mentor. On Albala, Samba has really come of age and created something warm, wise and deliciously melodic, his own desert blues.