July 22, 2009

It’s impossible to explain talent like Amadou and Mariam. “Gift from god” is the trite tag to trot out, but that’s too easy. Not to play dime-store deist, but no beneficent higher being would shutter the lids of two preternaturally gifted musicians just cuz. So, it’s something else. Perhaps overcompensation from the sense of sound. Or some Outliers RX of 10-years with gruel, water and guitar picks. Or maybe that’s just how things are and I should just shut the fuck up. Let’s do that.

So OK–Malian blind blues legends, Amadou & Mariam. Right. Their latest album, the compilation, The Magic Couple, manages to successfully validate the absurdly bold title. Is it stupid to call yourself the magic couple? Yes. Except when it’s true. The 50-something husband and wife duo, who met at Mali’s Institute for the Young Blind, might be known as master practioners of Afro-Blues, but this sacred earth opus tilts towards Tuareg guitar influences too, with added Afro-Beat, Indian, Arab, and R&B flourishes. In year when the token Pazz and Jop African diversity vote has stiff comp from Mulatu Astatke and Heliophonics and The Very Best, Amadou and Miriam should deservedly rack up Harry Potter numbers.

They’re no secret anymore–Damon Albarn approves their Myspace friend requests, and Chris Martin bugs their dressing room to jack riffs. The best Magic Couple since Neon Boudreux and Butch McRae have become go-to guys for print newspaper guides to African Music (Ann Powers’ LA Times piece is recc’d). The hierophantic horns and gilded guitars on “Cest La Vie” sound like prophecy and no quantity of overwrought adjectives can approximate a proper description. Occasionally, the blog age has merit. It’s better to just listen.

Amazon: Amadou & Mariam-The Magic Couple

Download:
MP3: Amadou & Mariam-“C’est La Vie”

From Welcome to Mali
MP3: Amadou & Mariam-“Sabali”
MP3: Amadou & Mariam-“Ce N’est Pas Bon (Bullion Remix)”

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