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Friday, January 2, 2009

Review: Toubab Krewe - Live At The Orange Peel

Toubab Krewe - Live At The Orange Peel
2008, Upstream Records

Appalachia. Home to scenic vistas, simple living, squirrel dinners and African-rooted folk music. What? Back up. Asheville, North Carolina is home to Toubab Krewe, a band that mixes traditional West-African music with a pop/Americana mix to create one of the most unusual combinations you've likely ever heard. Toubab Krewe was born in 2005, the partnership of five childhood friends: Teal Brown (drums), Drew Heller (guitar), Justin Perkins (kamel ngoni, kora, guitar), David Pransky (bass) and Luke Quaranta (percussion). Toubab Krewe has travelled extensively, studying with music masters in places such as Guinea, Mali and the Ivory Coast. Toubab Krewe has wowed crowds at Bonnaroo and the Festival Of The Desert in Essakane, Mali. Their latest release, Live At The Orange Peel (available January 6, 2009 on Upstream Records) captures their live presence in intimate detail.

Disbelief quickly turns to musical joy while listening to Live At The Orange Peel. I expected kind of a Paul Simon Graceland redux; instead I heard a brilliantly original and vibrant set of recordings that exceeded my imagination by leaps and bounds. The opening track, Autorail fell about where I expected musically, but Toubab Krewe weren't about to stand still. Lamines Tune seemed an interesting conglomeration of roots rock and northern and western African sounds. This is the catchiest of the tunes here and almost descends into honky-tonk at times (but not quite). Roy Forester features Justin Perkins on the kamel ngoni and special guest Umar Bin Hassan (The Last Poets) on the spoken word passages. Kaira is exceedingly beautiful from the opening, with Perkins creating sounds on the kora that sound like they may have been from and old Yes album.

51 Ft Ladder is more rock song than anything else, with the kamel ngoni sounding at times almost like a banjo. This is a great jam tune that could go on a lot longer than it does. Maliba carries an almost Caribbean sound -- all its missing is the steel drums. Toubab Krewe kicks out the jams on Moose, just to prove they can. This big, guitar-driven rock song has an almost Celtic feel to it and should appeal to fans across diverse boundaries. Live At The Orange Peel closes with Buncombe To Badala, which has a definite Dick Dale/Surfaris feel to it.

Toubab Krewe is one of the most unique bands I've come across. Their music is infectious and fun. You'll find yourself hooked from the first listen. Live At The Orange Peel captures Toubab Krewe in their best light - live on stage. Musically talented, Toubab Krewe adds to their performance by maintaining an ultra-high energy level. This energy comes across well on the CD, and likely only offers a hint of what there is to experience at a show. On the whole and excellent recording.

Rating: 4 Stars (Out of 5)

You can learn more about Toubab Krewe at or, where you can purchase a copy of Live At The Orange Peel.

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