SIDI TOURÉ plays Harbourfront July 27 as part of Masters Of Mali. Rating: NNNN
American indie label Thrill Jockey went considerably outside its comfort (and geographic) zone to sign Malian songwriter Sidi Touré. The label evidently considers the singer/guitarist's blend of regional Songhai folk and Western blues a sound that could appeal to North American audiences, and the gamble is paying off. Touré's quietly skillful acoustic guitar-picking and warm, hypnotic style are simultaneously alien and familiar.
Touré's first album for Thrill Jockey, Sahel Folk, was a series of duets recorded in one take at his sister's home in Gao, but this follow-up fleshes out his compositions in a professional studio, replacing the earlier sparseness with female backup vocals, percussion and traditional violin and calabash accompaniment. That fuller aesthetic doesn't diminish the casual intimacy and adds remarkable new dimensions.
Top track: Koïma (The Pink Dune Of Koïma)