Africa to Appalachia is one of those recordings that demonstrates — and celebrates — the fact that music from disparate cultures has more aspects in common than "separating" them. But Africa to Appalachia isn't a dry, piously reverent lecture — it's a meeting of open-eared musicians finding common ground and having fun with it. Jayme Stone plays the banjo, which has West African origins; Mansa Sissoko is from Mali and plays the kora, a many-stringed guitar variant with a harp-like tone. Much of ATA has a leisurely, back-porch feel. Although most of the songs are of Malian origin, Sissoko's semi- yodeled singing and kora are very prominent, but repeated listens reveal much more. The fiddle of Casey Driessen gives "Ninki Nanka" a languid country feel until the song switches gears into slyly swinging David Grisman newgrass (i.e., a fusion of jazz and bluegrass) territory. "Tree to Tree" finds Malian melodies and bluegrass elements elegantly dancing together, and "Dakar" finds guitar, banjo, and kora engaging in some snazzy, jazz-charged exchanges over percolating percussion. Dazzling in a down-home manner, ATA is recommended for all acoustic-leaning multicultural gatecrashers.
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