Lucid Culture


CD Review: Justin Adams & Juldeh Camara – Soul Science

Feel-good story: a friend of British guitarist Justin Adams gives a copy of one of his albums to renowned Gambian singer and ritti (one-string fiddle) player Juldeh Camara. Camara promptly calls Adams, hoping to collaborate. Adams is flattered and immediately agrees. It turns out that Adams has known Camara’s playing for a long time, having heard him, uncredited, on an album of traditional music. Within a half-hour of meeting, the chemistry between the two musicians is electric, and they starting writing songs. Fortuitously, they made an album out of it.


What it sounds like is Ali Farka Toure on speed. Adams has gone on record as saying that he eschews flashy playing, but that’s not exactly true. As the lead guitarist in Jah Wobble’s band in the late 80s and early 90s, Adams dazzled with his ability to play an astonishing number of different styles, and wasn’t exactly averse to setting the crowd ablaze with a solo or two. But having come up during the punk movement, Adams also plays with a remarkable terseness, preferring to bring an idea or emotion to life rather than indulging in any kind of overt ostentation. For the most part here, it’s Camara who gets to show off his blazing speed and love of rapid runs punctuated by double stops, or hammer-ons as the stylistic device would be called in guitar terminology. This album is syncretism raised to a power: the melodies may be mostly hypnotic, African desert blues, but intermingled with tunes and motifs from literally all over the map. One of the tracks on the album begins with languid, expressive blues guitar straight out of the Junior Kimbrough songbook – and then Camara comes in with his fiddle, playing an Irish jig melody. Another song is set to a straight-up Bo Diddley beat. They also do a one-chord boogie that could be proto-John Lee Hooker. Musicologists will have their hands full with plenty of chicken-or-the-egg questions here, but regardless of whether it was the African or the westerner who brought it to the party, it’s all good. This culminates as the album goes along, particularly when the two players lay down a trip-hop beat. Except that there’s no drum machine: it’s just a swinging 4/4 beat, emphasis on the one and the three. To call this psychedelic is a vast understatement.


Camara sings and writes the lyrics, a mix of indigenous languages. The cd’s lyric booklet provides a somewhat literal translation, revealing a considerable sense of humor. In one song, he pokes fun at tribal names, accusing the Jawos of gluttony. But, “In as much as I tease the Jawos, they are also great people. They love their culture and they adore and promote their musicians.” Go Jawos!


In Ngamen (Let’s Dance), Camara promises that “If you wish, I can stay up and play all night for you. Or, if it happens to be morning, I will play til noon.” And on the following track, he urges us to “remember the people of Fuladu; they love to party.” Anyone who feels kinship with the people of Fuladu (or who enjoys Ali Farka Toure, or Tinariwen, Toumast or their brethren) will enjoy this album immensely.

July 30, 2008 - Posted by | Music, Reviews

1 Comment »

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