Nomad by Bombino
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Nonesuch / Cumbancha ( )

Niger’s most popular guitar shredder Omara “Bombino” Moctar is back for a second go around after being touted as the artist most likely to the first true superstar of Tuareg music. I’m not sure how you measure superstar status when it comes to the Tuareg (if I did, I’d certainly opine that Tinariwen has achieved such status), plus I must cop to a certain ignorance about The Black Keys or their Dan Auerbach, who produced Nomad. What I can say for sure is that Auerbach, the latest Westerner to make his way into the Saharan music scene, knows what he’s doing and brings out the Bombino who rocks hard against walls of sound, twangs with near shades of country music and rolls through the kind of loping West African blues that sound like they were born in the mind of a shepherd in a remote area passing time by singing and learning to play guitar.

That’s precisely what Bombino was, and he refined his licks by listening not only to his African peers but to the likes of Jimi Hendrix and Mark Knopfler. As a result his sound has a lot to offer rock and rollers who are starting to tune in to guitar-based African music without putting off more purist-eared listeners. Not that there aren’t some genuinely bold touches to be enjoyed. I mean, I couldn’t tell you if that’s a genuine vibraphone or a keyboard facsimile on “Imuhar,” but it sounds damn good, as does the pedal steel guitar that shows up in a few songs. While some of the jam session spontaneity of Bombino’s debut CD Agadez has been forsaken in favor of a more polished treatment, Bombino is still firing off his lead axe like a weapon one moment and using it to lull the flock the next. In the all-important second album department, he’s done smashingly. - Tom Orr

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