The 1996 recording of this powerful singer from Mali is both her most fully produced recording to date, but in a strange twist also one of her most grounded, essentially "folk" albums as well. The core African band is mostly voices, with kamalngoni (a thick stringed lute), guitars, flute, and percussion in more or less traditional settings for these powerful and persuasive original songs about the social order and the place of women in the culture. The nontraditional elements are sparse and a little startling. Precise, synchronized violin and bass lines puncture the air; R&B horns (a trio led by Pee Wee Ellis) add an unexpected funk; an African guitar line suddenly takes on an electric urgency. These never detract from the rootsy feel, but rather add enhancements at once surprising and obvious. It's all in service of the songs and the voice of Oumou Sangare, whose sliding soulfulness and chilling wail are positively captivating.