Senegalese musical maverick Cheikh Lo's third album for World Circuit/Nonesuch, Lamp Fall, has a distinctively contemporary feel, incorporating different styles and influences while retaining the deep spirituality that is essential to Lo. Lamp Fall is undeniably upbeat, celebratory album, that weaves together a myriad of colors and textures.
Nearly every artist in Senegal has to wrestle with the long shadow cast by the mighty Youssou N'Dour. A former N'Dour protege, Cheikh Lo is one who has staked his own claim. With a deep but still sweetly melodious and sometimes hoarse voice that is the opposite of the keening N'Dour's, Lo takes a foundation of Mbalax--an uptempo Senegalese style that mixes pop, African and Caribbean styles together in varying degrees--and adds even more. Here, on his first album in six years, a drum troop from the Brazilian state of Bahia fills out some tunes and James Brown saxophonist Pee Wee Ellis is brought in to add some peppy soul music-inflected horn parts to others. The intersection of ideas, styles, and cultures is far from smooth, but the kinetic energy created by all the influences brings a festive vibrancy to the music. Highlights include the undulating "N'Galula," the smooth ballad "Sante Yalla," and the chattering "Senegal/Bresil." --Tad Hendrickson