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Etran Finatawa
Desert Crossroads
Riverboat

By Bruce Miller

Published May 13, 2008

The attention Ali Farka Touré received has opened the door wide for various strains of Sahel and Saharan desert blues that have done nothing but enrich ears across the globe. From seasoned vets Tinariwen to newcomers Tartit and Toumast (and lesser-known groups like Doueh and Inarene), there’s now a sandstorm of guitar-driven North African grooves stretching the length of the desert itself. Niger’s Etran Finatawa have toned down the electricity of their first album without sacrificing an ounce of vigor for their sophomore effort, making them a vital link to this sudden wave of moody, sandblown grit and grind. After just 10 seconds of the band’s effortless marriage of loping, camel-step rhythms and serpentine guitar parts, there’s no question whose music this is—the vocal harmonies are at once promising and dire, the grooves nailtough and hypnotic. Truthfully, Etran Finatawa haven’t changed much since their ’06 debut, but when music is as helplessly addictive as this, there really isn’t any need.

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