Review by Shannon Shumaker
Songhoy Blues’ Music In Exile is a musical masterpiece. Drawing from a wide variety of influences, from folk, to rock-n-roll as well as the group’s heritage and tradition, Music In Exile is a melting pot of sounds, and the result is remarkable.
Right away, the guitar work on Music In Exile is one of the strongest parts of the album. Seconds into the first track, you can hear the Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin influences in the incredible guitar work. On top of that, the vocals are gorgeous and soulful, meshing perfectly with the sweeping notes and intricate guitar picking. The best part is, the guitar work isn’t your run of the mill, traditional guitar work. It’s all beautiful, sweeping picking and constantly moving. It becomes apparent within the first two songs (especially the upbeat second track, “Irgana”) that there is virtually no filler on this album. Each note has a purpose and a meaning, and that’s what makes each song so special and worth listening to. Even “Desert Melodie” which almost feels like a campfire lullaby, has a gorgeous strong guitar part that carries the song, along with chanted vocals. It lulls you into relaxation, but never to the point that you actually want to fall asleep, because you might miss something.
Vocally, Music In Exile is incredible as well. The mellow third track, “Al Hassidi Terei,” is proof of that, with flawless vocal harmonies on top of gorgeous guitar work. The different vocal parts throughout the track add a ton of different layers to the song, and if you close your eyes while listening to it, you almost feel as if you’re right there as they sing to you.
Songhoy Blues’ wide variety of influences are apparent as the album progresses. “Irgana,” for instance, has a very upbeat feel and a guitar part that nearly sounds like ska or punk. “Irgana” is on a completely different end of the musical spectrum from a song like “Desert Melodie,” but it doesn’t sound out of place. It’s really cool to be able to hear soulful and emotional raw songs such as “Mali” alongside bluesy rock-n-roll tracks like “Nick.” The wide range of influences in these songs is incredible, but even more remarkable is how Songhoy Blues manage to put their own spin on these sounds and make them all flow together.
Easily the strongest part about Music In Exile, isn’t the guitar work, the vocal harmonies or the wide range of sounds, though. The thing that stands out most about this album is its ability to transcend not only genre, but language. While a listener like myself can’t understand what the lyrics of these songs mean, it’s impossible not to feel the energy and the emotion of the songs through the soulful vocals and flawless guitar playing. Obviously, one can’t function without the other, but it’s easy to hear the stories behind these songs in the guitar work alone. With beautiful vocals and amazing harmonies layered over it, Music In Exile is an album that is well worth listening to.
Listen to "Nick" and "Mali"