Juju - In Trance
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Juju: Justin Adams and Juldeh Camara
In Trance

From the very first big fat electric guitar notes – soon joined by the cry of the one-string Gambian fiddle called a ritti - this album growls out that it is a rock album.

On this, their third collaboration, British guitarist Justin Adams and Gambian ritti player Juldeh Camara toss off the traditional kid gloves. While their previous albums rolled amid the strains of traditional African music, this latest opens the floodgates and – to paraphrase Spinal Tap – turns the volume up to eleven.

Which is not to say Camara is an unequal partner. The cries he pulls from his ritti urge the music on and use hypnotic grooves to help the music build to some of its mightiest crescendos. He also is an urgent presence as the duo’s lead singer, with a bluesy, soulful voice.

This is certainly one for American jam-band fans, particularly those who like their jams to go well out there. On the mighty “Djanfa Moja” the band builds on a repeated riff, but also adds layer upon layer of texture and nuance, building to a climax, then taking up with a percussion jam, which then restarts the tune with the cry of Camara’s ritti. Adams then joins in with some sonic washes. The roller-coaster finally glides to a stop at 14:46 minutes.

Camara, whose father was a traditional griot storytelling musician, approached Adams after hearing one of the Brit’s albums, and the two immediately struck up an enthusiastic musical partnership. Now, after five years of almost-telepathic collaborating, they decided to record “live” in the studio to capture the improvised fire of their concerts. Three of the seven songs are more than 10 minutes long and the shortest tune clocks in at more than five.

The two are wonderfully matched partners, giving each other space while supporting each other; the pair are supported powerfully by their three-person rhythm section. “Deep Sahara” builds an intense head of steam as it is propelled by a primitive tom-tom rhythm reminiscent of Bo Diddley, ending with a dual percussion jam of western and African drums.

In this rocked-up context, Camara’s fiddle runs are reminiscent of the riffs of Papa John Creech from the early Jefferson Airplane days. His raw sound holds its own against the big beats and Adams’s spacey electronics. This rough-hewn music is probably not for everyone’s tastes, but certainly folks who have never even heard of Gambia could love this intensely flavored hybrid of old and new music. - Marty Lipp

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