Nomad - Bombino

Nonesuch

Enter the next gen Tuareg guitarist. Bombino follows the shifting footsteps in the sand of desert blues greats like Tinariwen, as far as they'll go; the cyclical entrancing rhythms, plaintive chants and gut-bucket riffs. But, kids just want to rawk. So for his second album, fate would introduce him to Black Keys' guitarist, Dan Auerbach whose interest in the Malian prodigy had been growing since he saw a film clip of him playing live in front of a thousand swaying North Africans. "I thought it was really amazing", Auerbach explains. "He was just rocking out, playing the guitar. Live is where Bombino shines. He's electrifying." I concur. At a Chinatown club in Vancouver last year,  I saw Bombino and his be-robed band-mates plug in and mesmerize an excited and curious crowd, although I found his North American debut, Agadez on Cumbancha Records to be somewhat unremarkable. Auerbach's interest in Bombino continued to percolate until eventually, a deal was struck. The Black Keys' axeman would produce the Tuareg picker's next album in Nashville on the rock duo's label, Nonesuch. "It was a liberating experience," says Bombino. "It opened me up to all these different possibilities in the studio that I didn't know existed." That quote by the way, went through three back translations. Communication through these Nashville sessions was testament to the use of music as a true 'international language' unto itself. Things obviously clicked because Nomad is a real leap above his debut. The material captures more of the desert blues vibe of the Sahara. You can almost feel the grit of sand between your teeth as you listen. Yes, kids like to rawk and Auerbach loves it gritty; so much so that if the release could be faulted in anyway it would be in forsaking fidelity for stalking that ideal Live in-studio vibe. To cite Tinariwen by example once more, the crystal clarity of their recordings allow even the subtle, muted handclaps accompanying the rhythm to be prominent and palpable, adding to the entrancing effect. Not so in Nomad's wash, but the electric energy is most def preserved in amber. I found the material to be evenly if not strangely arranged on disc as well. I gravitate toward 'Aman' as my favorite, which makes you wait until track 9! It features pedal steel, a true ode to their Tennessee environment while recording. Even the laughter at the end of the song indicates how pleased the musicians were with their own performance. Other Nomad highlights include the opening 'Amidinine' and its introduction, which sounds exactly like the cover art depicts; a motorcyclist with a flowing North African scarf under his lid, poppin' a wheelie in the desert. Sorry camels, that's the way this next gen Tuareg rolls.