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Mississippi to Mali

Corey Harris Audio CD
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Biography

A native of Denver, Colorado, Corey Harris fell in love with music at an early age, and made his own music with a toy guitar he received at the age of three. Now 31 years old, Corey grew up watching his favorite music television shows - including HEE HAW and SOUL TRAIN - and listening to all the popular music of the day. But when his mother turned him on to a real guitar and the blues of ... Read more in Amazon's Corey Harris Store

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Product details

  • Audio CD
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Universal Music Distribution
  • ASIN: 5559974390
  • Other Editions: Audio CD  |  MP3 Download
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Missing Blues Link - Africa to America 1 Mar 2004
Format:Audio CD|Verified Purchase
An excellent album, inspired by Harris' work on Martin Scorsese's recent documentary on the history of the Blues, which Harris contributed to. Corey Harris explores the musical link between the 2 continents, and gets to the very heart of what blues is all about. Recored in Mississippi and Mali, he uses local session musicians who help him capture the essence of the modern blues sound. Harris is truly a master of blues music, and he is a fine guitarist, songwriter and vocalist to boot! Very Highly Recommended
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable mixed bag 9 Jun 2005
By A Customer
Format:Audio CD
Companion piece to the Scorcese documentary, this is an enjoyable mixed bag of an album. If you haven't seen the film, expect: (1) some straight rootsy unplugged blues (track 2 is a funky highlight); (2) field recording collaborations with Malian musicians including Ali Farke Toure, which explore the link between Afro and Afro-American blues. I needed to wait a little longer to get in to the vibe of these tracks - but it is there; (3) a bit of Fife (Phife?) and Drum music - i.e. bass drum and a sort of pennywhistle which is a rambuctious treat; and (4) the brilliant track 13 "Charlene". This is sung in French and is acoustic guitar with occasional congas. Don't know what the musical heritage of this track is but for me for some reason it evokes balmy nights in the carribean - marvellous!
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Amazon.com: 3.8 out of 5 stars  9 reviews
17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Excellent music; serious production problems though 14 May 2004
By Scott Bernstein - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
I'm a huge music fan and love all kinds of music, especially The Blues, owning around 100 blues CDs, including a few others by Corey Harris; I've even seen him perform live, and would consider myself a fan.
This CD is related to Corey's participation in Martin Scorsese's PBS documentary about The Blues, and attempts (rather successfully) to draw the links between American Blues and its African roots through collaboration with modern-day African musicians. There are new originals, a tribute to recently-passed Otha Turner (who was to have played on the album), and a number of excellent covers of classic blues tunes (Big Road Blues, Special Rider Blues, Station Blues, 44 Blues, Catfish Blues, Dark Was The Night...) that many blues fans will be familiar with, collaborations with African music star Ali Farka Toure (a superb guitarist/vocalist) and others, along with American blues artists like Bobby Rush.
OK, so far so good -- a good concept for a blues journey, and quality music performed by quality musicians all converge towards excellent music and performances.
But there is a MAJOR problem with this album -- about 1/2 of the songs (any songs that have Souleyman Kane playing percussion on them) were extremely poorly recorded. The problem is that the percussionist plays some very loud percussion instruments (I have no idea what exactly they are) that sound exactly like people playing ping-pong. And he plays them loudly and constantly throughout the entire song -- so much so that it sounds like someone is playing a ping-pong game in front of my stereo, obscuring the vocals, guitars, and whatever else is on the recording! Those songs should be labled as "Souleyman Kane featuring other musicians and vocalists far in the background". He is a talented and interesting percussionist, don't get me wrong, but he's not the reason I'm listening to this music.
This sort of recording quality problem might be excused from a classic field recording made in the 1920's or 1930's, but there is absolutely no excuse for this sort of problem to be heard on a recording made in 2002 & 2003! OK, I realize that they made many of the recordings in remote Mali, but that is no excuse for the engineers not to listen back to the recordings and adjust the setup so that you can hear the instruments in proper balance (I've done a bit of recording engineering myself in the past, so I know a bit about the subject). I could even excuse this issue if it only existed for a song or 2 if they noticed and then corrected it, but it is really problematic throughout 8 of the 15 songs!
You may think I'm just a stickler for a good recording, but I am not -- it REALLY detracts from enjoying the music -- after a while you'll find that the only thing you're hearing on the songs is the ping-pong sound. Check out some of the other reviews if you don't believe me -- I'm not the only one commenting on this.
If you decide to buy this CD, you will probably find yourself listening to the whole thing once and then subsequently programming your CD player to play only the 7 songs on the disc without the percussionist. Then you'll have a 5-star (if short) CD. Otherwise I give this 5 stars for 7 of the songs, 2 stars for the other 8, averaging out to about 3 stars.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars My new favorite CD 28 Nov 2003
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD|Verified Purchase
I love Mississippi to Mali. Corey Harris has been a favorite of mine for years, but I am so enthusiastic about this CD I feel like proselytizing from the treetops. While most of us know that the roots of the blues is in W. Africa, I don't think anything so far brings this home so seamlessly and naturally. This is a great CD, close to perfect in the way you hear the rhythms and sounds intertwine and learn something without being told.
The first segment of the Martin Scorsese's PBS series "The Blues," with Corey Harris was wonderful, and this CD comes from that. The segment with Otha Turner was my introduction to fife and drum music and I immediately came to Amazon to find more of it. There is a good helping of it here, not isolated, but in a rich context. Otha Turner passed away before he could be recorded for this album, but his grand-daughter Shardé is on it -- heir to his music and his talent and brilliant on this (I loved the vocal touch). I also love the sound of the njarka (one string violin) and the way these simple instruments and rhythms can hypnotize.
All the music here stays close to the roots of musical expression, not just that of the blues. It is good listening from beginning to end, not academic or intellectualized, but a collaboration of great musicians. An "essential" CD if I've ever heard one.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Blues connections 26 Dec 2004
By twangmon - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
For this celebration of earthy acoustic music, scholar and bluesman extraordinaire Corey Harris trekked to Mississippi and Mali, West Africa, to make a series of modern field recordings. Stateside, Harris cut resonator slide tracks with fife-and-drum musicians; in Mali, his bandmates included the great Ali Farka Toure on guitar. The resulting performances -- a mix of traditional blues and African melodies, songs by Skip James and Blind Willie Johnson, and originals by Harris and Toure -- are as spontaneous and relaxed as a back porch pickin' session. Through his music, Harris reminds us of the rhythmic, melodic, and spiritual connection between traditional African sounds and early American blues. If you're bummed by the slick production values of contemporary blues guitar albums, the dry, present tones and relentless funk of these tracks will set you right.
8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Roots Go Deep 21 Nov 2003
By o dubhthaigh - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
One of the best segments of Martin scorcese's overview of the history of the blues was his own film, which focused on Corey Harris taking it back to Mali and connecting with Ali Farka Toure. This CD was born out of that same mission, and as you would know if you have ever heard Mississippi Fred McDowell or Asie Payton, and THEN listened to Boubakar Traore, the ocean is a small creek over which the deeply emotional and soulful music has crossed.
Harris takes up in more detail the part he played in Scorcese's account, and his incredible picking and sense of the rhythmic drive connecting both the American and African traditions is nothing short of dynamic and extraordinary. This is very compelling music, yet not a dry dissertation. The emotional payoff comes with Ali Farka Toure's track 13: Charlotte. It is as beautiful a moment as you'll ever hear in any music this year.
Harris is a terrific bluesman and one would hope he continues his examination of this music to which he is so devoted. It comes from very deep in his soul and you can hear it sing clearly.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "The Roots of a Tree cast no Shadow 27 April 2005
By Jack Sullivan - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
The CD insert has a great quote "the roots of a tree cast no shadow". It is attributed to no one, on the sleeve it simply says, "As they say". I don't know who "they" are but after listening to this CD, "they" are right. The roots are presented exquisitely from "Mississippi to Mali". One can hear it in the notes, the rhythms and the sounds of the instruments and it clearly speaks one word, "Blues".

It starts right out with a beautiful acoustic solo song titled "Coahoma". The sweet guitar picking and slide work are just a peek into what is to come. Roots Blues at its best. The next song has a feel of a front porch somewhere in the south with "Corey" on vocals, guitar, "Bobby Rush" on harmonica and "Sam Carr" on drums performing the traditional "Big Road Blues".

"The idea for this CD came about through my participation in Martin Scorsese"s PBS series, The Blues". "Corey Harris". The African connection begins to make it self known as Corey Harris plays vocals and guitar on the "Skip James" tune "Special Rider Blues" accompanied by "Ali Farka Toure" on njarka (a one string violin) and "Souleyman Kane on percussion. It is a haunting rendition of this classic. The rhythms of the njarka and "Souleyman's" percussion will make your hair stand on end.

"Tamalah" the title of the next track introduces "Ali Magassa" on backup vocal. "Ali Farka Toure" wrote this song. The lyrics are African and the music is blues. There is a sad soulful quality to this track with a solid backbeat.

"Back Atcha" by "Sharde Thomas" the granddaughter and protégé of fife and drum master Otha Turner. The CD is dedicated to him as he passed one week before he was to record for this project. It features "The Rising Star Fife and Drum band with Corey on vocals, guitar and "Sharde" on fife and vocals. This is Mississippi backcountry fife and drum at it's finest.

With "Rokie" the next track we find ourselves back to Mali enjoying sweet rhythms under a tree shaded from the sun. To quote "Corey Harris" "I wanted to demonstrate the living links between African music and African-American music, specifically the blues and its offspring: jazz, funk, r&b and hip hop. The connection has been made and done beautifully.

In the remaining tracks "Le Chanson Des Bozos" the living roots are clearly established. "Mr. Turner" is a slow blues featuring "Sam Carr" on drums and "Bobby Rush" on harmonica with "Corey Harris" on vocals and guitar. This has that old blues feel all the way through.

The traditional "Station Blues" with the "Rising Star Fife and Drum Band" is sure to get your toes tapping with its solid rhythms. Your sure to be impressed with the Africanized version of "Skip James" "Cypress Grove'. The feel of this CD is one of a labor of love and it is clearly evident connection between Mississippi and Mali, more to the point between African and African American music. The roots are there for all to see, if you let the music in.

The album ends with a moving rendition of "Blind Willie Johnson's" "Dark Was The Night, Cold Was The Ground" which showcases Corey's acoustic slide skills. This is fine body of work from a most reverent player of the blues.

Jack "Sulli" Sullivan
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