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Awards for World Music 2008 - Album of the Year
Tinariwen album cover
Aman Iman: Water Is Life
Aman Iman: Water Is Life
Independiente ISOM65CD

The undoubted brand leaders of the desert blues genre, Tinariwen yet again stay ahead of the Tamashek pack by simply doing what they do better than anyone else. As the band's reputation grows and the possibility of crossover appeal increases, their must have been some temptation to tinker with or dilute their rockin', trancey sound. Instead producer Justin Adams and the group decamped to Bamako's Bogolan Studio and got on with the business of cooking up their most potent stew of raw, dirty Tuareg roots music yet. Whatever you liked about the group's first two CDs, you'll find more of here. Hypnotic circular electric guitar lines? Passionate call-and-response vocals? Spare on-the-money percussion and handclaps? They're all here and all sound better than ever.

Credit is due to Adams and engineer Ben Findley, who have fashioned a bright, crunchy sound from these ingredients. It's a well-programmed set, featuring some slower sparer pieces interspersed with the full-throttle trance-blues tunes. On a couple of occasions the guitar sound gets amped up to a point that's closer to psych rock than blues (desert or otherwise), but given the band's acknowledged love of Hendrix and his ilk, this hardly feels like something which has been imposed on them from the outside.

It really does come as a surprise to hear quite how much Tinariwen are able to wring out of what is a very basic sound. In spite of the fact that I've admired everything the group have done, I wasn't that excited about the idea of a another straight ahead desert blues album, particularly given the imaginative ways that Toumast are finding to stretch the genre. But sticking to the basics has its strengths. The other night I played this album straight after some Blind Willie Johnson and it stood up pretty well. Praise doesn't come much higher than that in my book.

Jamie Renton (review from fRoots 285, March 2007)

CD Review on BBC Music
fRoots magazine
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Gill, Glasgow
Totally blindin'

Pam West Midlands
I am amazed and mesmerized by this, I'm so glad to be aeare of it now,thank you radio 3.

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