Ethiopian music has been in fashion since the release of the Ethiopiques album series, so an album like this was perhaps inevitable. The Addis Acoustic Project was started by Girum Mezmur, a guitarist and accordion-player who set out to revive favourite Ethiopian songs from the 50s and 60s and rework them with cool, contemporary and mostly instrumental acoustic settings. He surrounded himself with some equally classy musicians – playing double-bass, percussion, mandolin and clarinet – but in the process he has ignored the energy and passion of the original music.
The result is an album that's well-played and pleasant, but too often soporific and forgettable, despite the strength of the melodies. It's all very easygoing, with passages of laidback, jazz-tinged guitar and gently sophisticated mandolin and clarinet work, but it only comes alive on the rare occasions when Dawit Ferew gets a chance to sing, or on the more robust instrumentals Ambassel or the finale, Yigermal. The rest often sounds like high-class, late-night mood music with an Ethiopian edge.