It's easy to understand why Fatoumata Diawara made a big splash with this rather glorious, exceptionally graceful debut album. It also makes sense that Diawara got her start as a backup singer for Oumou Sangare. Like her fellow Malian, Diawara sings with the easy rolling flow of Wassolou tradition infusing her husky, honeyed voice. But Diawara takes off in distinctive directions, molding Wassolou folk and Afro-pop together with acoustic pop and singer-songwriter soul. And even on exquisitely hushed tracks like "Alama," she displays a warm strength that belies her newness as a solo performer.