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ARTIST: Alba Griot Ensemble
TITLE: The Darkness Between The Leaves
Mark Mulholland is a Scottish singer-songwriter-guitarist who keeps his passport handy: he’s lived and worked in most of Western Europe, Haiti and now Bamako, Mali, where he connected with ngoni player Yacouba Sissoko of the Afrocubism project. They’ve taken Mulholland’s introspective songs in a British folk mode (think Nick Drake or Alasdair Roberts), added filigrees from the Mande tradition, and fleshed out the band with fellow free-thinking Scottish guitarist Craig Ward and jazzy Belgian bassist Hannes d’Hoine. The result is something like what The Pentangle would sound like today, after the world music revolution made African music widely available. The core quartet is augmented by a host of celebrity guests who really make the session cook. In particular, Fela Kuti’s drummer Tony Allen, terrific in just about any context, takes tracks 1, 5 and 8 to a higher plane. Also outstanding are balafonist Lassana Diabate (Trio Da Kali) on 2 and 5, and kora player Madou Sidike Diabate on 2 and 8. Madou’s older brother, the legendary Toumani Diabate, also sits in on the title track (4). This is a thoroughly impressive project, hopefully just a first installment.
TOP TRACKS: 1 2 5 8
ALSO RECOMMENDED: 3 4 6 7
Bill Lupoletti is world music director at WRIR 97.3 FM and wrir.org in Richmond, Virginia, where he hosts the Global A Go-Go radio program on Wednesdays at 3 PM and writes the globalagogo.com world music blog.