Amazon.com essential recording
This 1990 recording contains one of the best African blues tunes ever recorded, and a classic Ali Farka Toure moment. As the electric guitar roars in at the opening, punctured by a darting harmonica line, "Heygana" lays out the roots and branches of the blues in its journey from west Africa to the Americas, and more importantly, back again. Sung in the Songhai language, pushed by a vaguely reggae groove and pulled along by a sometimes idiosyncratic percussion line on a calabash, it pretty well epitomizes what Toure is about. The sound is stripped down, with the guitar and voice working a bare minimum groove. The calabash clicks, a thick stringed ngoni adds some punch, and a few tracks feature Toure on the njarka (fiddle). In addition to Rory McLeod's harmonica, there is one piece with The Chieftains' Seane Keane and Kevin Conneff on fiddle and bodhran (Irish goatskin drum), and a marvelous duet with saxophonist Steve Williamson that adds a little sideways R&B. The River is one of Toure's most straightforward recordings made in the decade after the light of his international fame had first shone.