Legendary producer Christian Mousset of France’s Musiques Metisses festival in Angouleme provides a quote on the jacket of the new release by the unlikely duo: “Haunting and melancholic melodies delivered with subtle and spicy elegance, Piment Bleu, Tao Ravao and Vincent Bucher’s new album takes us on board for a trip to landing on the shores of southern creole Blues, Malagasy infectious beat and African echoes. An authentic and unique blend of today’s musical landscape.”

My introduction in the 90s to Tao Ravao was via the Vancouver Folk Festival’s Gary Cristall in a year that we shared tour expenses as well as Boubacar Traore, as both acts landed at the Soul n’ Blues Festival introducing African Blues at Harbourfront Centre. Tao had emerged from the Paris streets to a career in partnership with distinguished harmonica master Vincent Bucher. Piment Bleu slips from trancy lilts to pounding grooves, mixing either electrified Kabosy or Valiha strings from Tao’s inventory of his home country traditions, with Blues Harp. The “rock my soul” lyrics are blended in English, French and Malagasy.

Presenting straight up tunes you might find in Chicago, this generous 45-minute offering also delivers delicate rolling grooves that justify their charting with World Music DJs in Europe where this Buda release came out in January. This is Tao’s tenth disc, his eighth with Vincent reflecting the natural interplay of a couple of unlikely blues brothers. “It is impossible to predict which direction the duo will be heading, and it’s certainly part of the fun.” decries Banning Eyre of NPR’s Afropop Worldwide. The instrumental shifts are unlike any project in the international blues world, as on moments when Vincent’s harp is cutting through like an accordion, the next Tao is digging into a mantra about “blowing my blues away”.

Don’t expect rambling storytelling but this “Blue Chili” is plenty spicy as these veterans dish their “soul power” in tracks laid down on the outskirts of Paris in the summer of 2020 taking their time to land in our ears in covid time. (Derek Andrews)

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