Talking Timbuktu is a groundbreaking record that vividly illustrates the Africa-Blues connection in real time. Ali Farka Toure, one of Mali's leading singer-guitarists, has a trance-like, bluesy style that, although deeply rooted in Malian tradition, bears astonishing similarity to that of John Lee Hooker or even Canned Heat. It's a mono-chordal vamp, with repetitive song lines cut with shards of blistering solo runs that shimmer like a desert mirage. Toure may be conversant with some blues artists, but it is unlikely that artists like Hooker or Robert Pete Williams ever heard these Malian roots, which makes the connection so uncanny. Ry Cooder, well versed in domestic and world guitar styles, is the perfect counterpoint in these extended songs/jams, his sinewy slide guitar intertwining with his partner's in a super world summit without barriers or borders. --Derek Rath
Review by Ron Wynn
Guitarist Ali Farka Toure has repeatedly bridged the gap between traditional African and contemporary American vernacular music, and this release continues that tradition. The CD features him singing in 11 languages and playing acoustic and electric guitar, six-string banjo, njarka, and percussion, while teaming smartly with an all-star cast that includes superstar fusion bassist John Patitucci, session drummer Jim Keltner, longtime roots music great Ry Cooder (who doubled as producer), venerable guitarist Gatemouth Brown, and such African percussionists and musicians as Hamma Sankare on calabash and Oumar Toure on congas.