There were two terrific new studio albums by female artists last month. This is one of them...
El Khaylou Wa El Laylou
Algeria’s finest female singer returns with an ambitious set in which she uses her gently exquisite, languid voice to rework an intriguing set of Arabic poems that stretch from the present day back to the sixth century. Contemporary protest is mixed with reminders of classic poetry from across the Arab world, and though she sings in Arabic, this is an album that should have a far wider appeal – her gently sturdy melodies are influenced by western balladry, jazz and reggae, and translations of the poems are thankfully provided. Massi’s last album, O Houria, five years ago, was marred by some unremarkable musical settings, but here she is helped by a band that includes oud, banjo and piano, with guitar work from the inspired Jean-François Kellner. She should have got rid of the electric piano, but this is a welcome and thoughtful comeback.