Friday, December 24, 2010
LOBI TRAORE - Rainy Season Blues (Glitterhouse Records GRCD 711)
Lobi Traoré hadn’t managed to complete his fifth decade before his sudden and untimely death in June, and such was his popularity amongst his peers that tributes flowed in from across the musical spectrum – from Damon Albarn on Radio 3 through Bassekou Kouyaté to Banning Eyre, the latter recalling the vibrancy and charm that the diminutive “Bambara bluesman” brought to the author’s breakout Malian musical travel tome In Griot Time.
Most of those plaudits were no doubt for Traoré’s dynamic, uncompromising electric guitar work in his multiple collaborations and solo work, none of which can have prepared us for anything quite like this recording on Dirtmusic’s Glitterhouse record label. With no overdubs and no treatments, this is just Lobi, his acoustic guitar and vocals in a stark, simple series of talking blueses, his picking as clear and resonant as his voice is rough and untutored; never one of the most sophisticated vocalists, Lobi’s cracked, occasionally off-centre, voice contains a raw retrospective melancholy even if valediction was not on the agenda at the time. And no doubt had he had his way, this album would have been a full-blown band recording, rocking in the legendary voluminous Bamako bar-room style for which Traoré was renowned. But placed in a position where it was a solo acoustic set or nothing, serendipity took hold and ten pearls of time-honoured philosophy and feeling came tumbling from those magic fingers and world-weary throat.
It’s all too easy to succumb to the temptation to imbue posthumous releases with meanings that weren’t originally intended, and thence to hail them as an artist’s greatest bequest. Lobi Traoré’s musical contribution was strong enough to leave a mark even without the existence of Rainy Season Blues, but there’s no doubt that this recording sheds a whole new, emotional light on his talent. Let’s leave it at that and let posterity judge its legacy.