Souad Massi – Honeysuckle (Mesk Elil)

As one who has to confess to coming late to the Souad Massi bandwagon, I must confess I have been bowled over by this album of swirling strings, poignant lyrics and passionate singing named after the artist’s first child

No fewer than seven guitarists (plus bass and double bass) including Souad Massi herself make an appearance and then there is a banjo, lute, violin and cello — that’s before the string orchestra makes an appearance. She has clearly taken her trademark sound and pumped it up with great power and the result will no doubt have her topping the more discerning charts for some time to come.
On ‘Inspiration (Ilham)’ for example we have a harmonious mix of multiple guitars, violin, African and Asian instruments including Djembe and an anthemic chorus. If one assumed this hugely uplifting song had lyrics to match, the printed lyrics dispel that notion and talk of the wounded heart “betrayed by its friends.” Subject matter and tone do however meet for the eponymous track, a gentle and mournful meditation on loss and exile, whose beauty survives even the sweetening effect of the orchestra.
The highlight for me though is the stunning duet with West African star-to-be Daby Tour?©. As great as each musician is on their own, something quite wonderful happens when they are together and Souad in particular seems to take off.
This West African influence is a recurrent theme throughout the album as she explores a range of musical traditions from the position of one who is completely on top of her own. The result is music that is wonderfully varied and assured and displays an artist who can ride the wave of massive production without going under.
Honeysuckle (Mesk Elil) is out now on Wrasse Records WRASS 170 and Souad plays the Marquee Club on 23rd November, 2005

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