Mississippi To Sahara
Faris Amine, born to an Ethiopian father and Touareg mother, tries something different, something that elevates him beyond being just another Desert Bluesman. Here, he takes songs from the Delta and drags them through the mud and back through the sands of his time, making Son House’s Death Letter over as Oulhawen Win Tidit, taking Hard Times Killing Floor and Jesus Is On The Mainline and Feel Like Going Home literally back to Africa.
Remember when there was a meeting of the minds and souls between Ry Cooder and Ali Farka Toure for the sublime Talking Timbuktu, well it’s that sort of cross-cultural pollination. A blues purist might not care for these treatments but would be hard put arguing that this sort of interpretation wasn’t valid, I’d sure rather hear it than any Starbucks-assisted Cappuccino Collection by Clapton or whoever the latest Stevie Ray Vaughan-lite luddite is.
There’s still that endearing scribble of the desert blues, a little signature scratched out across the fretboard as these blues staples are given a new life, dancing to a new tune as it were.
Faris has found a way to separate out what he does from the Tinariwens and Tamikrests of that world. His music is in keeping with that magical flow, and there’s an extra spirit attached – if you choose to see and hear and feel it, given he’s pulled back music that arrived, arguably in chains, from Africa to America all those years ago.
There’s a soothing sound in his voice (War Toyed) that belies the pain, suffering and hardship in these songs, that speaks to the indomitable spirit of his nomad culture, taking – and making – joy through music as a way of coping. And those percussive scratches and knocks on the guitar as mantra-like spells of melody are cast, well it’s as good as any music you ever heard. I’m sure of that. And then when you hear some of the English lyrics, little snatches of melodies you recognise from the original recordings, well that’s just another part of the magic on offer here. A rewarding album on more than one level.