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Blues: Back to the Source, With Guy Davis, Corey Harris, Alvin Youngblood Hart, Otis Taylor and Don Vappie + Bassekou Kouyate & Ngoni Ba
Barbican, April 28 2008
Review David Atkinson, Photos Andy Hall
For The Blues: Back to The Source, Bassekou Kouyate was joined by Otis Taylor and most of his companions from his recent Recapturing the Banjo album.
Bassekou Kuyate & Ngoni Ba had appeared on Jools Holland not long ago but they had not made much of an impression - I was probably just back from the pub - tonight though they did. A charismatic and enthusiastic band leader, Bassekou's buoyant opening numbers set an impossibly high standard. Choosing french over english, the communication with the audience was not always fully understood but it really just let the music work more effectively. The outstanding percussion and very vocal phrasing on the various ngonis were a delight. For the last number they were joined buy Guy Davis - his bluesy high notes on the harmonica sounding like a fife at times. Basekou's talented band, including 'femme' Amy Sacko on vocals, played so well they received a standing ovation before the interval.
Corey Harris opened the second part with a spell binding take on Skip James' Special Rider Blues, his guitar banjo and vocal delivery made a great segueway into the ensemble section. He was followed by Alvin Youngblood Hart who performed Deep Blue Sea and his original Prophet's Mission, where he was joined by Don Vappie on Tenor banjo and Guy Davis on harmonica. Hart is such a colossal man that his small bodied guitar looked like a toy, but his deep sonorous voice captivated the hall. He's not exactly an inscrutable chap and seemed to deliberately take a backseat from then on.
Guy Davis roused the crowd on Little Liza Jane - one of those songs that 'got around' and is familiar to all. He's an engaging performer and his fine claw-hammer style was one of the numerous highlights.