Album: Corey Harris

Mississippi to Mali, Rounder
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The Independent Culture

Albums such as Greens from the Garden and Downhome Sophisticate established Corey Harris as one of a handful of young exponents bringing the country-blues form into the new millennium. As an anthropology graduate and student of West African linguistics, he also made a knowledgeable host for Feel Like Going Home, the first episode of Martin Scorsese's TV series The Blues, which deals with the music's African roots and the shared cultural values it embodies. Mississippi to Mali focuses on similar territory, mixing together material recorded with local musicians in both locales. Some of the Mississippi tracks are performed with the Rising Star Fife & Drum Band, whose fife whistle and military snare rhythms blend well with Harris's slide guitar. Elsewhere, the Rising Star's late leader, Otha Turner, is commemorated in "Mr Turner", amore familiar country-blues number. But it's the African collaborations that stand out, featuring as they do duets with Ali Farka Toure. Toure's pieces have fluid structures akin to John Lee Hooker's and Lightnin' Hopkins' styles, while the addition of his njarka and Souleyman Kane's percussion to Skip James songs like "Cypress Grove" and "Special Rider Blues" restores something of their original haunting quality.