Album: Samba Touré, Albala (Glitterbeat Records)

What's sometimes missing with guitar-centred African records is a sense of air and space. But that's not so here.

The Malian bluesman is in a restrained mood, darkly contemplating recent upheavals in his beleaguered land. Albala is therefore a tense yet sombre effort that lands somewhere between the work of his one-time collaborator, the late Ali Farka Touré, and the more electronica-influenced work of the underrated Issa Bagayogo. A real gem.