The most exciting blues album to reach the Fervor Coulee Bunker this summer arrives by way of Belgium, Bai Kamara Jr. & the Voodoo Sniffers’ deliver Salone.
Named for Kamara’s home country Sierra Leone (Salone is the county’s name in the Krio language), this expansive collection of songs reinvents the blues structure with a ‘world’ perspective that includes the beloved ‘desert’ feel sans obvious amplification (“Time Has Come.”) Guitar- and percussion-based, these largely acoustic sounding performances emphasize the narrative, brief chapters of love, companions, hardship, and memory.
After initial appreciation for the instrumental textures assembled, one quickly sinks into the comfort of Kamara’s voice. Those familiar with Eric Bibb, Keb Mo, and Rodriguez will immediately gravitate toward Kamara’s offerings. Kamara plays and sings all the parts throughout Salone, while also writing and producing the album in its entirety.
American folk influences are heard (“The Rest of Everything,” ”Don’t Worry About Me,” and “Black Widow Spider,”) as is the Southern Blues tradition within “Cold Cold Love,” “Fortune,” and “I Ain’t Lying (Can’t Give You What I Ain’t Got.)” Mild rock overtones pull everything together, creating an amiable roots experience. Additional highlights include the musically adventurous, yearning “Homecoming,” “Cry Baby,” and “Can’t Wait Here Too Long.” With every song offering a slightly different sound or approach, Salone truly is that rare gem: all killer, no filler.
With songs like “Morning School Run Blues” and “Lady Boss,” Kamara envelopes his listeners within the daily routine, elevating common challenges and grousing to the level of light-hearted, companionable art. The deeper one allows themselves to be immersed in Salone, the greater the satisfaction achieved.
Where Disposable Society (2010) may have found Kamara exploring ‘tin-roof’ sounds from around the globe, and The Mystical Survivors and Some Rare Earthlings, Vol. 1 (2017) was more R&B and soul-based, Salone reveals his exploration of the symbiotic influences of African sounds and American blues. Less obviously commercial than The Mystical Survivors…, Salone is an entirely satisfying album demonstrating Kamara’s ongoing appreciation for music that has influenced him.