Album Review

Songhoy Blues - Optimisme

A short, sharp blast of buoyancy, delivered as only Songhoy Blues can.

Songhoy Blues - Optimisme

Anybody who’s seen Songhoy Blues play live will know how utterly life-affirming their ‘desert blues’ sound is, so it’s a concern to pick up this third record, ‘Optimisme’, and have the promising title immediately rendered void by the name of the only English-language song on the album - ‘Worry’. Has 2020’s relentless grind even managed to chip away at the ironclad ebullience of Timbuktu’s proudest musical exports?

“Don’t worry, you’re gonna be happy / keep fighting today, that smile’s gonna come one day.” Not even the unremitting bleakness of 2020 can put a dent in the perma-positivity of the Malian four-piece, apparently, and that’s something that’s echoed across ‘Optimisme’’s eleven tracks; in the face of adversity, Songhoy Blues offer up a succession of stirringly upbeat antidotes, from raucous opener ‘Badala’ to the pointed swagger of ‘Gabi’ and the communal war cry of ‘Korfo’. Underscoring everything is the consistent fizz of Oumar ‘Garba’ Touré’s guitar, faithful to his blues roots one minute - see the swaggering ‘Bare’, for instance, or the intense riffery at the heart of ‘Dournia’ - and exploratory the next (he noodles his way through ‘Bon Bon’).

There’s still some room for reflection, especially on the uncharacteristically downtempo ‘Pour Toi’, but in the main, this is the band bringing us precisely what we need them to. ‘Optimisme’ is a short, sharp blast of buoyancy, delivered as only Songhoy Blues can - with verve, and palpable joie de vivre.

Tags: Songhoy Blues, Reviews, Album Reviews

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