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April 15, 2013

Produced by the Black Keys' Dan Auerbach, this set showcases Omara "Bombino" Moctar, a firebrand guitarist from Niger rooted in the electric-blues tradition of the nomadic Tuareg tribes (see also Tinariwen, fellow denizens of the Sahara and the sound's foremost ambassadors). Bombino's style is raw, spacious, tuneful, deeply hypnotic and remarkably fluid – even when he's shooting rapid-fire notes, the effect is like ripples gently unfurling in a pond.

As on last year's Locked Down, Auerbach's meaty collaboration with Dr. John, there's close attention to detail: the thickness of guitar fuzz and organ tones, the oomph of hand claps, the psychedelic swirl of guitar licks moving across the stereo spectrum. The arrangements expand on tradition: Check the chill vibraphone solo on "Imuhar" and the loping, lapsteel-glazed "Tamiditine," a Google Earth vision of cosmic country music that channels Jerry Garcia's spirit. A perfect match of sound and soul, the set introduces a new guitar hero, and confirms Auerbach's arrival as a roots-music producer to be reckoned with.

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