Your feelings toward Nomad will not necessarily be determined by how you feel about the Black Keys; where Auerbach the musician still has a crush on stylistic purity, Auerbach the producer has ideas that are more inclusive and more beautiful. He’s helped Bombino make a spacious, centered record, one that stretches to appeal to Western listeners like the nomads, known for their circular dancing, who temporarily inhabit the fields of Bonnaroo in Manchester, Tennessee, every June – without strain or clutter or hipness overload.
With its bright, saturated guitar sound, the album replicates a little bit of the intensity of Guitars of Agadez recordings (there was one album in between, Agadez, recorded in Niger and Massachusetts and released by Cumbancha), and, in a slightly hokey way, a little bit of their atmospherics. There are crowd or street sounds in Azamane Tiliade, and some songs stop in a collective slump, with the sound of clapping, as if this were a party or a casual outdoor jam rather than a heavily considered shot at a worldwide audience.
But these songs sound less driving, more streamlined and structured and consolidated. Their rhythm has a slight New Orleans drag added to the desert beat. (The Tuareg drummer from Bombino’s band, Ibrahim Emoud, plays in these sessions, but so does Max Weissenfeldt of the German rare-groove band Poets of Rhythm.) There’s an American folk feeling in some of the acoustic-guitar tracks, like Imidiwan. And it takes chances by introducing instruments to the record that have no natural place in this music, particularly the organ, vibraphone and lap-steel guitar.
Still, that lap-steel works pretty nicely, flooding the mix in Aman, echoed and ghostly in Tamiditine. In his precise, nasal voice, Bombino sings some strong lyrics; translated in the liner notes, they aim to celebrate and protect Tuareg culture and identity. But I’ll be surprised if many listeners, under seduction of the music, bother to read them.
— Ben Ratliff, NY Times News Service