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Troubles is the new album from Dirtmusic – Chris Eckman (The Walkabouts) and Hugo Race (Fatalists/True Spirit/Bad Seeds) – recorded in Bamako, Mali, in September 2012 during the high-tension and tragic recent crisis – hence the name, ‘Troubles’.
Originally a trio with Chris Brokaw (Come/Codeine), Dirtmusic released their eponymous debut in 2007, a gritty collection of acoustic ballads drawn from their American and Australian frontier roots. The band’s explorations of raw, psych-folk-rock then took a radical detour out to the Saharan desert, to Timbuktu, performing at the legendary Festival-au-Desert.
Dirtmusic’s encounter at the Festival-au-Desert with the Tuareg band Tamikrest was the catalyst for the second album, BKO (2010), a classic, one-of-a-kind trip through the interzone between ‘western’ and Tamasheq desert rock. The two bands toured Europe extensively and the album received major shout outs from both the rock/pop and “world” music press:
“ BKO is a collection of dusty, yearning songs growled out over a nicely fused acoustic/electric mix… The atmosphere is infectious” – UNCUT
“A different take on African rock… it’s not Africa subsumed by the west but a genuine, equal meeting” – FROOTS
With the departure of Chris Brokaw, Race and Eckman decided to head further ‘upriver’, composing and recording an album from scratch in full collaboration with a select crew of Malian artists. Dirtmusic arrived in the Malian capital of Bamako with notebooks of lyrics, but without written songs or preconceived strategies.
Drawing on musicians from the Ben Zabo and Samba Toure bands as a core rhythm section, Race and Eckman produced the sessions on the dance floor of Salif Keita’s Moffou Club, inviting in guest vocalists including not only Ben Zabo and Samba Toure, but also Virginie Dembele (from the Rokia Traore ensemble), rising star Aminata Wassidje Traore and soku-master Zoumana Tereta.
There are many voices telling stories on Troubles, singing in Songhai, Bambara, Tamasheq and English, stories of war and peace and love and doubt in the shadow of an oncoming storm, and like a musical version of cinema verite, everything is real, in-the-moment and utterly direct.
Inspired by the collision between West African rhythms, digital sorcery and rock’n’roll, Troubles is a singular and border-slicing musical journey. And Troubles is only the first release from the sessions, with a second volume in the pipeline for a release on Glitterbeat in early 2014.