Like his legendary father, Ali Farka Touré, Vieux is a guitarist who likes to collaborate. He has worked with the Israeli keyboard player Idan Raichel, and now comes an even more powerful partnership, with American singer Julia Easterlin. The opening Little Things starts with the familiar guitar lines of that Malian favourite Kaira, before Easterlin eases in to nudge the song towards western balladry. Elsewhere, this bravely original fusion switches from an African funk treatment of Fever Ray’s I’m Not Done to slow, thoughtful laments. The traditional In the Pines has been covered by everyone from Lead Belly to Nirvana, but is here reworked with chilling, whispered vocals and desert blues guitar, while the most startling track is a slow, African-edged treatment of Dylan’s Masters of War, which sounds like a pained meditation on the recent chaos in Mali.
The conventional view of Niccolò Paganini's 24 Caprices puts them among the encores and etudes violinists use to hone their skills and show off their prowess. But Julia Fischer regards them primarily as expressive works that are as rich in lyricism and emotional color as they are in advanced techniques, and her 2010 Decca album shows her considered approach to the music. There's no doubt about Fischer's impressive abilities, which are apparent from hearing the first Caprice, and all the trickiest double- and triple-stops, bowing styles, and various means of articulation that are included in this fantastic work reveal her phenomenal gifts. But as amazing as Fischer's performance is for sheer technique, it is highly pleasurable because of her polished musicality and firm control of every nuance that is either overt or suggested in the music. Highly recommended. (AMG)