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Various Artists: Mali to Memphis

The title tells almost all in the compilation Mali to Memphis (Putamayo 145; 56:51), the third album in the label’s Odyssey series, conveying the story of the African influence on popular music in the U.S. It does this by comparing, A/B fashion, music from Mali and the American blues motherlode. Not surprisingly, it takes no great leap of perspective to listen to the hypnotic groove-ulations of Mali’s Amadou and Mariam, doing “Mon Amour, Ma Cherie,” and then fall into the infectious boogie-colored vamp of John Lee Hooker’s “In the Mood.” They’re variations on a similar mood. Other musicians from Mali include Lobi Traore, whose guitar-fueled sound suggests a distant Delta, and sweet-throated troubadour Baba Djan. Across the drink, the blues contingent includes Muddy Waters, country bluesman Guy Davis, and Taj Mahal, who veers a bit closer to the porous West African influence.

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