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Published: 2009/02/23
by Matt Brockett

Live at the Orange Peel – Toubab Krewe

Upstream Records

Recorded live over two nights during a 2007/08 New Year's run in their homebase of Asheville, NC, Toubab Krewe's sophomore release, Live At the Orange Peel absolutely drips with the trademark cool and stunning musical tightness that defines their unique American/Malian Afro-pop. Overall the album is a great example of what to expect if you check these guys out live, with a few extra surprises included to help capture the collaborative spirit of the New Year’s run. Namely, two spoken word performances from the Last Poets’ Umar Bin Hassan, as well as frequent guest Rayna Gellert of Uncle Earl on fiddle, who fits so perfectly in the mix that it’s no stretch at all to consider her the unofficial sixth member of the Krewe.

Even when blasting right out of the gate on electric rockers like "Moose," there is always a tangible feeling of patience and circular motion in every note and every riff. On the opening "Autorail," that patience results in a tremendous build that comes on so slowly and subtly that your brain might not even notice the tempo change until you suddenly catch yourself steadily bobbing your head in double-time. Toubab Krewe pretty much always keeps things tight and hypnotic, even on rock-edged tunes like "Roy Forester," and also on the same tune when they bring things down a notch to serve as a subtle backdrop for the first of Hassan's two poems, entitled "Personal Things." The cadence and flow of Hassan's hard-hitting beat poetry style delivery entrances the listener as he drops some serious abstract knowledge. The uplifting tone and gorgeous delicacy of the playing on "Kaira" is just one of many perfect examples of the extraordinary musical interplay between guitarist Drew Heller and multi-instrumentalist Justin Perkins that truly brings this band to the next level. On "Buncombe to Badala" they bring the surf rock with an undeniable cowboy bravado, blending the genre with something akin to the rich and gripping acoustic soundtracks of old Westerns, for a rock riffing result that is entirely their own. It's on tunes like this where Heller shines and rages with the perfect blend of urgency and restraint, slyly yet selflessly reminding everyone exactly the kind of soaring peaks he and his bandmates are capable of if the mood of a song calls for it. David Pransky's bass always fits in exactly where it needs to be, never over the top or obtrusive, always laying the backbone or weaving his notes in and out of the beautifully intricate and simply hypnotic sonic fabric spun by he and his bandmates. There's no guitar wankery, raging arpeggios or techno 'untz' to be found here, thank heavens. With Toubab Krewe, more so than with almost any other band in the jamband scene today, every note counts, and the whole is always greater than the sum of its parts, and we're talking about some seriously talented parts here.

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