Ali Farka Touré | Savane

Ali Farka Touré (v, g, perc), Pee Wee Ellis (ts), Yacouba Moumouni (f), Fain S. Dueñas (perc), Ali Magassa (g), Yves Wernert (b), Little George Sueref (hca), Oumar Touré (congas), Alou Coulibaly (water calabash), Souleye Kané (calabash), Mama Sissoko, Dassy Sarré, Bassekou Kouyate (ngoni), Fanga Diawara (njarka vln) and others. Rec. 2006 OK, straight up: this one’s a classic. A privilege for me to listen to an album that ensures the late, great Ali Farka Touré a seat in the blues pantheon. We always knew he was good; disciples would make the dusty trek to Niafunke, the town on the banks of the Niger (where Touré was mayor) just to touch the hem of his garment. Talking Timbuktu, his landmark 1994 album with Ry Cooder, was testament to his guitar-playing prowess; so too last year’s In The Heart Of The Moon with kora maestro Toumani Diabate. Still, there was always a sense that the laid back axeman wasn’t giving his all – he’d let his collaborators take the limelight. Farming was his main priority, he’d say. But last year’s cancer diagnosis forced his hand – and Savane is the stunning result. Here are the familiar, trance-like call and response choruses, the dextrous blues drenched chord-changes and the growling, meandering vocals but with added depth, space and passion. Supported by, variously, a down-home ngoni and guitar band, percussionists and vocalists from Niafunke, single-string violin and visceral harmonica from rising London-based star Little George Sueref, Touré crafted his swansong with dedication and love. "My best album ever," he announced which, for him, was really saying something. Jane Cornwell