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Mississippi to Mali

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Album Review

Corey Harris is adept at combining contemporary sensibilities with traditional country blues forms in a manner so natural that the cracks and fissures between now and then never seem to show, an accomplishment he expands on Mississippi to Mali to include two continents. Again, the music flows so naturally that the bridges and welds that join the African and African-American traditions on this record are never obvious, creating a seamless, wonderful album. The tracks were recorded live in the field, an approach that strengthens the intimate feel here, and there are numerous high points, including Africanized versions of Skip James' "Cypress Grove Blues" and Robert Petway's "Catfish Blues" that open new dimensions in each song without altering its original intent and tone. A version of "Sitting on Top of the World" (called "Station Blues" here) with the Rising Star Fife and Drum Band, and featuring Shardé Thomas, the 12-year-old granddaughter of Othar Turner, is a particular delight in its ramshackle exuberance. Mississippi to Mali closes with a credible and moving take on Blind Willie Johnson's "Dark Was the Night, Cold Was the Ground" that spotlights Harris' considerable acoustic slide skills. This is another fine album from a player whose reverence for the blues doesn't keep him from instilling the form with both joy and innovation.


Born: February 21, 1969 in Denver, CO

Genre: Blues

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

Corey Harris has earned substantial critical acclaim as one of the few contemporary bluesmen able to channel the raw, direct emotion of acoustic Delta blues without coming off as an authenticity-obsessed historian. Although he is well versed in the early history of blues guitar, he's no well-mannered preservationist, mixing a considerable variety of influences -- from New Orleans to the Caribbean to Africa -- into his richly expressive music. In doing so, he's managed to appeal to a wide spectrum...
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Mississippi to Mali, Corey Harris
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