Saturday, February 14, 2009

JAYME STONE & MANSA SISSOKO - Africa to Appalachia (own label)

Another addition to the recent plethora of projects exploring the common ground between the banjo and the stringed instruments of West Africa. It's a deftly arranged collaboration of seemingly effortless ease between Canadian banjo-player Jayme Stone and Quebec-based Malian griot Mansa Sissoko. There’s a gratifying sense of balance between the two main instruments, Sissoko's disciplined yet always melodically satisfying kora playing is never over-ostentatious, and the generous use of space allows Stone to fill these crisply arranged songs with grainy touches of old Appalachia.
The duo have subtly re-worked a set of traditional songs (one exception being the Stone-composed Dakar which features some vivacious rootsy acoustic guitar picking from Grant Gordy), Mansa sharing his sinewy vocals with another Canada-based singer, griotte Katenen Dioubaté (yet another gloriously full-throated female Guinean singer). There also support from a fine cast of guitarists, percussionists and ngoni master Bassekou Kouyaté – evocatively sprinkling his standard issue scratchy but melodic fairy dust over the album - as well as American fiddler Casey Driessen and trumpeter David Travers-Smith, who respectively add rustic C&W lustre and brassy colour to a confidently delivered, finely judged album with no boundary-crossing joins showing.

Jayme Stone website

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