MiG Music / Moosicus 2023
Sub-Saharan hoodoo master heals the world’s wounds and exposes its sores through a hypnotic set of songs.
There always was wondrous, and understandable, dryness to the blues which came directly from Africa to Europe, without getting soaked in the Mississippi Delta or drenched by Albion rains, and though Bai Kamara grew up in England, his Sierra Leone roots began to bloom on the melodic ground only after the singing guitarist has been planted in Brussels more than 30 years ago and launched a solo career one decade later. Kamara’s seventh album goes even deeper than that, linking, via its title, the musician’s memories of his grandfather with today’s politics and, thus, rendering “Traveling Medicine Man” an ever-relevant platter possessed with playfulness in all the right places. As Bai’s touring accompanist join him on record for the second time around, the aforementioned arid qualities acquire a mighty groove to leave the listener salivating for each new number.
It’s not surprising, given that the first of these devil’s dozen cuts is “Shake It, Shake It, Shake It” whose erotically pulsing voice and tight twang of three guitars, punctuated by handclaps and Boris Tchango’s beat, should be resisted at one’s own peril, while the pining-filled, if mesmeric tumult of “Surrounded” and the calm despair of “If You Go” offer a silky sort of soul destined to sooth a broken heart and raise one’s hope when drum breaks float into the frame, and the acoustic “Good, Good Man” and the riff-flaunting “Star Angel” brings the genre’s sorrow-stricken tropes to the fore. And though the restless rumble of “Miranda Blue” is merely infectious, if repetitive until six-string solo and cymbals rustle emerge, the delicate “Money Ain’t Everything” where Kamara’s vocals are velvet-soft ties familial troubles to social issues, and the brisk “Mister President” struggles to conceal his simmering anger at the powers that be.
And then there’s panache of “I Don’t Roll With Snakes” to paint the veteran as a dangerous vagabond who’s better not be messed with because he might have visited the Crossroads at a certain point and dares to have sad dreams poured into “If I Could Walk On Water” here to cry for mercy for his fellow travelers. However, “It Ain’t Easy” which takes Bai back to Sub-Sahara reveals the burden Kamara’s still carrying on his shoulders and the pride of illegal immigrants preferring to be their nation’s builders. Here is a bittersweet reverie – or, rather, a vision this artist can draw closer to reality on the strength of his songs.