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Lobi Traoré Rainy Season Blues Review

Album. Released 2010.  

BBC Review

Traoré’s vocal boasts some impressive range over 10 sparse songs.

Louis Pattison 2010

Rainy Season Blues is what will amount to the final will and testament of Lobi Traoré, a guitarist and songwriter from the Ségou region of Mali who passed away unexpectedly in June 2010 at the age of 49.

Much of Traoré’s musical career was spent in Malian wedding bands, where he would play versions of the popular Manding standards. But much like his late countryman, Ali Farka Touré, it would be unwise to try to slot Traoré’s music into any exclusively African musical tradition. His 2005 LP for Honest Jons, The Lobi Traoré Group, captured a particularly raucous, electric energy, and elsewhere, more sombre, stripped-down recordings have demonstrated a sizable debt to the American blues. As a young guitarist, Traoré cut his teeth on records by AC/DC and John Lee Hooker, and while he was apparently never wholly comfortable with the ‘African blues’ tag, this posthumous album – recorded in an impromptu four-hour session in a studio in Bamako by Chris Eckman of The Walkabouts – certainly recalls something of Hooker’s discursive, narrative fashion and raw, wandering soul.

Here, then, we have 10 songs, consisting of just voice and spare, picked acoustic guitar, captured with sparse effects and no overdubs. The guitar locks into circling patterns, sometimes roaming off on chiming, improvised tangents. Traoré’s vocal, meanwhile, boasts some impressive range. Djougouya Magni (‘Wickedness Is Not a Good Thing’) sees him adopt a preacher’s urgency, his voice exploding as if from a pulpit as he lectures on man’s inhumanity to man. The likes of Hinè (‘The Pity’) and Alah Ka Bo (‘God Is Great’), meanwhile, adopt a far softer tone, Traoré contemplating divine providence in sweet, undulating song.

That the songs of Rainy Season Blues were to be his swansong was something that no-one could have anticipated, but it would be difficult to find a collection of songs that sounded more final, or more at peace with the world.

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