Rainy Season Blues

GR 711CD GR 711CD

2010 release. Lobi Traoré (1961-2010) was a true African original, a guitarist of profound depth and originality, a singer and songwriter with universal appeal, and a performer who became part of the very fabric of Bamako, one of the world's most musical cities. Not long before he died -- suddenly and unexpectedly in June, 2010 -- Traoré recorded an unprecedented solo CD, featuring just him and his guitar, in a single session with no overdubs. Rainy Season Blues turns out to be Traoré's final statement. It captures the pure essence of his artistry in full flower. From his earliest days in Mali, Traoré was an avid rock and blues fan who listened to players from John Lee Hooker to AC/DC's Angus Young. In Bamako, Traoré held a lifelong tenure in the city's late-night bars and clubs -- Bar Bozo, Makelekele, The Djembe, Espace Academie, and others. When his first cassette, Bambara Blues, appeared in 1989, things began to take off. Traoré had mixed feelings about the "blues" tag. "I listened to a lot of blues," he said, "Especially John Lee Hooker. Maybe I was inspired by that. Maybe the blues was inspired by Africa. Maybe the resemblance is just a coincidence. But listen, for me the music I play comes from me, from my place." Traoré would go on to release three CDs with the Cobalt label: Bamako (1994), Segou (1996), and Duga (1999). But there was a schism in Traoré's musical persona during these years. His international releases presented a toned-down, acoustic side of his music, while his club dates in Bamako became ever more wild, raw, and raucous. Subsequent CD releases like The Lobi Traore Group (Honest Jon's, 2005) did capture the more unbridled, rocking side of Traoré's chameleon musical persona. But all of it is Traoré, an artist with many faces. He sought to dignify a profession that many Africans still view as dubious. The fruit of that attitude and Traoré's rich and varied experiences are abundantly evident on Rainy Season Blues. In his final years, Traoré was driven to record and to demonstrate how he had grown as a musician. Producer and guitarist Chris Eckman had returned to Bamako to record the Tuareg desert rock band Tamikrest, but Traoré more or less demanded a hearing. When it became clear that a full-band recording would not be possible right away, Traoré turned up with just his guitar, and recorded this remarkable set of ten songs, new and old. The session offers a magnificently lucid record of Traoré's core talent. His playing has never sounded cleaner, fresher, or more nuanced. No guitarist alive phrases the way Traoré does, and to hear him unaccompanied like this is a treat not found on any of his other nine albums. Traoré's voice shows all its colors, from a soothing half-whisper to a world-weary growl to keening melodicism.