The Washington Post

Habib Koite and Eric Bibb album review for ‘Brothers in Bamako’

Habib Koite (left) and Eric Bibb will perform in the Washington, DC area. Image provided by Mark Pucci Media. (MICHEL DE BOCK )
“Brothers in Bamako”

Kindred spirits: Vieux Farka Toure, Taj Mahal, Bukka White

Show: Friday at Artisphere. Show starts at
8 p.m. 703-875-1100. $30.

Senegal-born pop-folk musician Habib Koite (who’s based in Mali) and New York-bred bluesman Eric Bibb (who lives in Finland) are not siblings by blood, or even really in musical style. Yet the singer-guitarists’ rapport is evident on their recent collaboration, “Brothers in Bamako.” Their approaches overlap more than meld, but the results are amiable and sometimes lovely.

As announced by opening track “On My Way to Bamako,” Bibb’s music is direct, unadorned and conversational. As a boy in the ’60s, the guitarist got advice from such folk-revivalist acquaintances as Bob Dylan (whose “Blowin’ in the Wind” is covered here) and Pete Seeger. Bibb dominates the album, while Koite seems content mostly to follow his partner’s taste for homespun American music.

Koite’s playing is more ornate, which suits his lilting melodies and mostly French lyrics. But he shows an affinity for the blues with a stark new version of his “Foro Bana,” and he joins Bibb in singing the classic lament “Going Down the Road Feelin’ Bad.” It sounds, though, as if the “Bamako” sessions weren’t all that glum. When Koite inserts some English into his “L.A.,” one of the album’s highlights, the line is a playful endorsement of getting tipsy on tequila.

Mark Jenkins


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