Call My Name

Daby Touré and Skip McDonald, 2009

As soon as they met, they knew each other. Daby Toure: a thirty-something musician raised in Mauritania, West Africa, currently a leading light on the Paris, France scene. Skip McDonald: an old school African American bluesman from Dayton, Ohio, long time resident of London, England. And having met and jammed one summer's night at Real World they kept on meeting and jamming at festivals around the world.

For both men this was more than mere coincidence. "We just had this immediate musical connection," says McDonald, eyes twinkling. "In the way our instruments and voices combined. In the things we sing about and the emotions we put into our songs. To meet a brother like this..." He shakes his head. "It's a rare, rare thing."

Welcome, then, to Call My Name. A 6-track mini-album that captures the magic of this unique creative union, that sees songs - some by Toure, others by McDonald - transformed via imaginative, instinctive collaboration. Crafted in Real World Studio's state-of-the-art Big Room, Call My Name is a spellbinding record, the superlative result of focused energy, creative license and a famously pressure-free environment.

The sound, for the most part, is pop. Compelling and catchy. Direct and frills-free. But pop unlike anything else you've heard before. "I sing what I feel, in whatever language I feel like singing it," says Toure, whose lyrics embrace the personal and political in an often improvised mix of English and different African languages: Wolof, Pulaar and Hassaniya among them. "Skip would play me a rhythm and quickly establish a groove, the way a traditional musician from Mauritania or Senegal does. It's a natural thing," he adds. "It just happens."

Being children of Africa helps, of course. "We've both got roots in the Motherland," notes McDonald, the son of a blues guitarist who used to lull his son to sleep with bedtime songs instead of stories. "We've both ended up somewhere else. So we've got African/French culture. African American/English culture. We've got the blues combining with African music - which makes sense, since they're relatives - as well as our huge range of influences. So we're going in and out of Africa," he says, "which is where all music comes from anyway."

As front man for 21st Century blues project Little Axe - whose lauded albums for Real World include Champagne and Grits, Stone Cold Ohio and the forthcoming Bought For A Dollar, Sold For a Dime - McDonald has often likened himself to an archaeologist, ploughing the roots of American blues.

Daby Toure, member of a musical dynasty forged on the banks of the Senegal River - and the artist behind Real World albums Diam and Stereo Spirit, is forever seeking fresh sounds and innovative ways of applying them. "All the music I picked up when I was young is still in me and that doesn't change. But in my music I am still searching, and mixing, and trying new things. I am African but I am also European."

Also on board was drummer Keith LeBlanc, veteran of such respected outfits as Little Axe, Tackhead and the famed American hip hop and funk group, Sugar Hill Gang

Regardless of origin, each of Call My Name's 6 tracks highlight the interplay between McDonald's weighty guitar grooves and Toure's lighter, more freewheeling musicality. Each track features McDonald's resonant English language vocals and the younger man's gloriously agile multilingual singing, along with delicate electronic flourishes and a vibrant immediacy.

Call My Name's superb opener, Past Time - a slice of pop perfection sprinkled with echo effects, background incantations and heartfelt sentiments - makes it clear that the world of McDonald and Toure is an exceptional one. Here are covers of such Little Axe classics as Time Has Come, reinvented with sparkling chord progressions and a fresh live feel; and the epic Sinners, wrapped in shimmering guitars and thundering congas and underlined with Toure's griot-like wail.

While Lost Voices is a breezy, clap-along ride across melodic fields, the infectious Riddem is, well, precisely that. The jaunty yet poignant strains of Will You Call My Name - a song dedicated to Africa's street children - balance tradition and innovation with unselfconscious ease. As, indeed, does the album itself.

Reviews

  • Unique, Appealing ...this wonderful six-track mini-album...neither African music nor blues, but instead something that pulls from both and also from rock, a touch of pop and even dub for a unique, appealing and - it has to be said - quite commercial sound....The two voices and styles complement each other perfectly, and the songs they've created - for they seem more like creations than compositions - summon up echoes of their histories, but end up in a hybrid that's essentially completely new. Sing Out! (USA)
  • A Fantastic Achievement Overall, Call My Name is a fantastic achievement, the relative nature of both musicians styles is so subtly delivered that at points the lines that separate them are dissolved. A new and interesting sound emerges from the collaborative efforts of Touré and McDonald that leaves the listener wanting more than the six tracks on the album. BBC Online (UK)
  • Top Notch The guitar playing is top notch on every track , with some lovely tasty licks in particular on 'Lost Voices', one of Touré's compositions. Equally, the backing guitar comes over well on every track, weaving lovely intricate patterns with LeBlanc's drums. Obviously there is a very heavy African influence, but in other track, such as 'Sinners', you can pick up the French influence. Blues Matters (UK)
  • Highly Accessible Afro-Pop Fusion This release was born from a jam one summer night at the Real World complex between two of the label's key artists, the West African singer-songwriter Daby Touré and the Sugarhill Gang/Little Axe veteran American-born guitarist, Skip McDonald. The result is a highly accessible Afro-pop fusion, similar in spirit to Gabriel's own 80's collaborations with Youssou N'Dour...'Past Time', 'Lost Voices' with it's irresistibly bouncy pop chorus and 'Riddem' are standouts.'Will You Call My Name?', the one joint composition, is a splendid fusion that makes you wish they had enjoyed more time together. Leaving the listener wanting more is never a bad ploy... Songlines (UK)
  • Superbly Crafted Six-Track Mini Album That they (Daby Touré and Skip McDonald) connected musically, that there's a mutual respect, and that they've developed a genuine and lasting friendship is immediately apparent from the opening notes of this superbly crafted six-track mini-album. With drummer Keith LeBlanc (Tackhead/Little Axe) these consumate musicians effortlessly bring together their diverse influences and considerable talents on an album of infectious 'Afro-pop' that pays dues and respect in equal measure. R2 (Rock'n 'Reel) (UK)
  • Infectious interplay ...Call My Name's six songs twist the two guitarists' parts together like lianas, braiding their individual lines into strong, sturdy ropes of riffs...a miasmic swirl of sound. The Independent (UK)