ERIC BIBB AND HABIB KOITE’
BROTHERS IN BAMAKO
STONY PLAIN RECORDS SPCD 1362
ON MY WAY TO BAMAKO–L.A.–TOUMA KELEN/NEEDED TIME–TOMBOCTOU–WE DON’T CARE–SEND US BRIGHTER DAYS–NANI LE–KHAFOLE’–WITH MY MAKER I AM ONE–FORO BANA–MAMI WATA–BLOWIN IN THE WIND–GOIN DOWN THE ROAD FEELIN BAD
Eric Bibb and Habib Koite’ first met about ten years ago while working on the “Mali To Memphis” album . They began a friendship that turned into a working arrangement which led to Eric’s trip to Mali’s capital city of Bamako to sit in the studio with Habib and create “Brothers In Bamako,” an album influenced not only by the blues influences of the two men, but folk, gospel, and World music influences as well.
Koite’ has a West African family heritage rooted in the very beginnings of what we know as blues music, and is one of the most prominent voices in his country, having studied in Bamako at the National Arts Institute. Eric Bibb has been on the contemporary scene for several years, with a strong blues lineage of his own, and when the two men began writing the material for this album, any cultural differences they might have had gave way to their spiritual passion for this music.
The album itself finds both artists playing various stringed instruments and singing, with Habib singing much of his material in his native West African tongue. They begin the set with a tribute to each other’s homelands, Eric singing of “feeling like I’m comin’ home,” on the leadoff “On My Way To Bamako,” while Habib returns the favor on his sprightly ode to “L. A.” Both men collaborate on a look at society’s drive for excess and the damages that go with it in “We Don’t Care.” They appeal to a higher power to “Send Us Brighter Days,” with subtle guitar lines that intertwine seamlessly. Another socially-conscious song written by Eric reminds us that whether you are “the hobo in a cold box car” or “the champion at the finish line,” “With My Maker I Am One.” The set closes with two more traditional tunes, a cover of Dylan’s “Blowin In The Wind,” featuring Eric on six-string banjo, and “Goin’ Down The Road Feelin’ Bad,” with Habib’s electric guitar lines a perfect foil to Eric’s acoustic banjo.
These two popular bluesmen developed a rapport that allowed each to feed off the passion of the other, even tho both came from vastly different backgrounds. It is that underlying commonality that makes “Brothers In Bamako” work, continuing to show how music is indeed a universal language. Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow