Although it may come as something of a surprise, it’s certainly no accident that The Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach invited Bombino to record his third album, Nomad, at Auerbach’s own Nashville studio. Although the Niger-born Tuareg guitarist has yet to become a household name, his international profile has risen tremendously over the past few years. Bombino first rose to local prominence as a teenager, when Niger’s preeminent guitarist, Haja Bebe, invited him to join his band. A few years later, a Spanish documentary film crew working in Niger helped Bombino record his first album, Guitars from Agadez, Vol. 2. The strength of that record (not to mention work with Keith Richards, Charlie Watts, and Angelina Jolie) brought Bombino to the attention of filmmaker Ron Wyman. Wyman spent the better part of a year searching for the nomadic musician, later producing both Bombino’s second album and a documentary on the Tuareg people that featured prominently him.
Although the Auerbach and Bombino come from dramatically different worlds and traditions, there is a shared element in their sounds that would seem to make strong case for their paring. Auerbach has built his reputation on roughly-edged, darkly-toned albums like the Black Keys’ breakout Brothers, and his production work for artists like Dr. John consistently maintains that feel. These records are all steeped in the blues tradition, but feature a uniquely rich and fecund sound not found elsewhere- its almost as if Auerbach went down to the swamps and sought out the darkest corners, places filled with life unknown to the rest of the world. The result has been the development of cinematic, almost noir sensibility, and in this way, Auerbach and Bombino are brothers. Bombino’s own work shares this ability to sculpt a powerful atmosphere, and the combination of the romantic qualities present in the Tuareg desert blues with the strong mythic resonance that the traditional nomadic lifestyle has for the west (and Americans in particular) means that the match-up makes a great deal of narrative sense.
Will his collaboration with The Black Keys’ frontman bring Bombino’s music to the forefront? Possibly. Given both artists track records- not to mention the heavy, grungy vibes glimpsed in the just released album teaser- it will DEFINITELY be something to look forwards to. Check out a preview of the album below and start counting the days….