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Markus James
"Snakeskin Violin"
(Firenze Records)

CD Reviews & Info

Of late, a handful of American artists have explored the connection between West African music and American blues, but Markus James has lived this connection for the past seven years (and four albums). "Snakeskin Violin" continues his profound world blues passage. Working, as usual, with several Malian players, including Hassi Sare (njarka violin), Mamadou Sidibe (calabash, vocals), Vieux Farka Toure (cadence guitar) and Mama Sissoko (n'goni), James laid down tracks in Mali, California and Mississippi. His songs radiate a dark, nearly forbidding glow, while his sparse, shadowy arrangements cut a groove that draws deeply from the hypnotic vibe of Malian music. "All That You Can't Keep," "Exile Tracks" and "I Won't Let It" are extremely distinctive pieces, driven by a seductive rhythmic circularity that's a keystone of Malian traditional tunes and Delta blues. —Philip Van Vleck 

"profound world blues passage... extremely distinctive pieces, driven by a seductive rhythmic circularity that's a keystone of Malian traditional tunes and Delta blues."

"The mix of sounds, instruments, and influences spanning the program is mind-boggling"

"Africa and Mississippi come together..."

"This is an extremely powerful album"
---Ben Manilla, Executive Producer, House of Blues Radio Hour

---Elwood Blues

Man, I couldn't stop smiling as I listened to this CD. I love the way James has re-combined these musical heritages that obviously have a common background but then adapted on different continents. The traditional musicians that back him up sound so good, and the mix of traditional and modern instrumentation seems so appropriate. I got this record yesterday and have listened to it start to finish 4 times, but cut 6, All That You Can't Keep, I've played at least 20 times! This is great stuff if your taste leans toward the adventurous.
--- Robert Dyson

Markus James has been recording and performing original, Blues-based music with traditional Malian musicians since 1994, when he first made his way to the village of Niafounke, home of the legendary Sonrai musician Ali Farka Toure. Markus' critically acclaimed Mali-based albums have been warmly received in the US, Europe and Mali, and he was honored to have a track included in the UK compilation "Sahara- Blues of the Desert", alongside such great artists as Ali Farka Toure, Baaba Maal, Yousou N'Dour and Tinariwen. Markus' long-term collaborations in Timbuktu with 3 Malian master musicians is the subject of the award-winning documentary film "Timbuktoubab" ("Excellent" - Global Rhythm), seen on many PBS stations throughout the US.

Markus has performed at the Festival In The Desert 3 times, and in 2007, was invited to perform at the series of Jamal Poi tribute concerts for his friend and inspiration, Ali Farka Toure, in Bamako and Niafounke, which were broadcast on Malian national television. 
The UK's fROOTS Magazine called Markus "the unofficial dean of this movement" of up and coming US roots musicians whose focus is the African source.

Markus' new album "Snakeskin Violin" is a kaleidoscopic journey in which fellow travelers appear and vanish, and features collaborations with trance groove Wassoulou hunters in Bamako, a shaman in Timbuktu, old-school drummers in Como, Mississippi, traveling Tamasheks in California, and African Diaspora musicians in the US.

Track Listing

  1. I Won't Let It 

  2. Lonely Mile 

  3. Are You Ready (Mississippi Daze) 

  4. Exile Tracks 

  5. So Much Soul 

  6. All That You Can't Keep 

  7. Weather Vane 

  8. O.M. Boogie 

  9. Ambience 

  10. Drivin By 

  11. Sundown Pearl (Snakeskin Violin Pt.1) 

  12. X-Ray Soul (Hard To Find Pt.1) 

  13. Heatin Up Now 

  14. Mystified 

  15. Soon


"Gobissa" by Markus James

The track Gobissa comes from the album and critically acclaimed film Timbuktoubab. Enlisting the brilliant support of Hassi Sare (njarka violin, vocals), Solo Sidibe (kamele n'goni, vocals), and Hamma Sankare (calabash, vocals), James creates a beautiful music video about the contrast of life in the dessert and life speeding up in the modern world and how life could be over at anytime. The music video was filmed in the sand dunes and villages in and around Timbuktu, Mali.