Brothers In Bamako

Habib Koite & Eric Bibb

Stony Plain, 2012

REVIEW BY: David Bowling


Sometimes a good idea is really a good idea, and so it was for Habib Koite and Eric Bibb.

Eric Bibb is an American blues singer-songwriter who is proficient on both the guitar and banjo. Habib Koite is also a singer-songwriter and guitarist, but he is from West Africa and his rhythms and styles reflect that continent. They have now combined their talents to create a unique blend of blues, world music, and even a little gospel that fuse their very different origins and styles.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

They wisely kept it simple. The only other constant in addition to their vocals and instruments is percussionist Mamadou Kone.  They add background vocals to one track and a pedal steel guitar to another, but that’s it.

They also wrote singularly or in tandem on 11 of the 13 tracks. The two covers, which close the album, serve as bookends for their approach. The old blues song, “Goin’ Down The Road Feelin’ Bad,” is about as close as they come to a traditional sound. On the other hand, their cover of Bob Dylan’s “Blowin’ In The Wind” takes the song to places it has rarely, if ever, traveled. Bibb’s vocal, Koite’s rhythms and the blending of Olli Haavisto’s pedal steel into the mix create an intriguing and memorable performance.

Two interesting and poignant tracks feature Bibb sharing his feelings about his first visit to Mali on the title tune, “On My Way To Bamako,” and Koite returns the favor with his “L.A.”  “We Don’t Care” has some bite as they tackle the mining problems of West Africa.

Bibb and Koite have united to forge a fusion of not only two distinct musical styles and forms but of two cultures as well. It may not appeal to everyone, but if you are in the mood for something a little different and want to take a chance, then this is an album for you.

Rating: B

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© 2013 David Bowling and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Stony Plain, and is used for informational purposes only.