Tell No Lies

Justin Adams and Juldeh Camara, 2009

"Tell No Lies" is the new sound of Justin Adams & Juldeh Camara. The sound of a nation with no borders, a place that needs no passport, no visa. This is where the deep roots of African music nourish the raw electric groove of rock and roll, where Gnawa spirit rhythms come up against Chicago distortion, where snaky N'awlins rhythm has a West London howl, and a Sahel Wail.

Juldeh Camara is an African Master Musician, taught to play by his blind father, who himself was taught directly by the djinn. Playing the ritti, a one-stringed fiddle and West African ancestor of the violin, he participated as a griot (a West African poet, praise singer and repository of oral tradition) in traditional Fula society. Juldeh has the drive and effortless flow of a great Bluesman. While his instrument brings to mind Delta players like Big Joe Williams, as well as Ali Farka Touré, there is a lilt in his playing that hints at the ancient links between North Africa and the Celtic World. He describes magical shapes on his ritti; one minute it's Blues harp, the next a Celtic fiddle, then a Saharan herdsman's flute. It is hard to believe all this emotion, range and flexibility comes from just one string.

Justin Adams has been at the cutting edge of world music alchemy since the 1990's with Jah Wobble, Robert Plant (Adams co-wrote The Mighty Rearranger), Natacha Atlas, The Festival of the Desert, Tinariwen (producing their first and third albums), LO?JO. Taking influences from African, Arabic and Irish traditions as well as rock and roll and the Blues, his distinctive, driving guitar style is the missing link between Bo Diddley and Munir Bashir. With Tell No Lies, Adams delves deeper into the African origins of black American music, following the roots of New Orleans and Mississippi soul right back to the Songhai, Fulani and Toureg peoples of West Africa.

"My original love when I was young was The Clash and dub reggae" says Justin. "I like to keep things raw and swinging so it never gets too pristine or too sweet. I love listening to cassettes of Moroccan music and Algerian music. I like trancey, circular rhythms and voices that are in between pleasure and pain, where it's bittersweet."

Justin and Juldeh have been playing together for two years, following the release of the critically acclaimed "Soul Science" in 2007 (winner of the BBC Radio 3 World Music Award in the Crossing Continents category), touring at festivals in Siberia, Mexico City, Morrocco and WOMAD. The touring experience has clearly brought them closer together as musicians and added to the unique nature of their musical style. "At certain soundchecks I'd start playing something and Juldeh would rush over and say 'keep playing that! We've got to play that tonight' Juldeh would record things on his mobile phone , so that's they way we came up with a lot of material" explains Justin. Over time the two musicians have naturally fused their styles and begun to create a musical language of their own, where it becomes difficult to see if Justin is becoming more African or Juldeh more Western.

The reference points for this release are recordings from the 1950s by the likes of Bo Diddley and Muddy Waters. To achieve the rawness and slight distortion meant a live feel was important. "The way we've gone for that is to record in a very live way in The Wooden Room at Real World Studios. You'll hear the sweat and blood of the live performance, and all the scratchy bits" enthuses Justin. He is also interested in modern RnB and the heavy bottom-end of current pop music, so naturally Tell No Lies lies somewhere in between - the drive and powerful energy of the old records with something new as well.

Justin and Juldeh are joined by Salah Dawson Miller, a veteran of North African percussion who has played with an extraordinary array of artists including Phillip Glass, The Drifters, Dr. John, 3 Mustaphas 3 and Jah Wobble, and who studied in Algeria, Morocco, Cuba and Brazil.

Reviews

  • Womad Charlton Park Festival 2010 ...a rousing performance from the English guitarist Justin Adams and Juldeh Camara, an exponent of the Gambian ritti fiddle. Joined by bass, drums and singer Mim Suleiman from Zanzibar, they produced a blistering improvised set dominated by African blues. Guardian (UK)
  • ...Justin and Juldeh are gold dust. You really need to have been to Passing Clouds before in order to find it. The graffiti-sprayed building off Kingsland Road doesn't look promising and there's no sign. But that's presumably part of its cool - and inside it's packed. There's a bar and stage in the small hall downstairs and a chilling area upstairs with potted plants, armchairs and another bar. There are coloured silks, Chinese lanterns and parasols hanging from the ceiling. It feels like a comfy house-party. But as the name suggests, maybe you'll wake up and find the whole thing was just a dream. Particularly when Justin Adams and Juldeh Camara don't come on stage until 1am. Cross-cultural bands are two-a-penny these days but Justin and Juldeh are gold dust. Justin is a great blues and rock guitarist who has played for years with Robert Plant while Juldeh is a Gambian-born singer and player of the ritti, a one-stringed fiddle. Justin is in a black suit and crimson shirt, Juldeh in a cobalt blue robe and West African cap and they make a spectacular double act. Justin drives it with rock guitar poses and Juldeh takes off, playing trance-like melodies which will, Justin says, "take you somewhere you may not have been before". The young, late-night crowd revel in the ecstatic, trance-like sounds. The London Evening Standard (Live review from Passing Clouds) (UK)
  • Live review from The Brewery Arts Centre...people were up and dancing and most didn't stop all night! The Malt Room was quite full on the night...Within a couple of tunes people were up and dancing and most didn't stop all night. That is the magic of what Juldeh Camara does. As Adams warned us, 'he is capable of making you do things you didn't expect'. And most of that magic comes, incredibly, from a single string, the taut leather string of the Gambian violin-like instrument the ritti. Accompanied by the incredible barehanded percussion skills of Roy Dodds, Adams carves out a delta blues groove on electric guitar whilst Camara's melodies slide along and his chanting vocals (in Fula mostly) add to the trance-like effect. Adams explained that they start with a groove, a song-base, but responding to the dancing, whooping and clapping of the audience they take it on and on and on so that some pieces were 15 minutes or so long. How they found the energy I don't know, but the audience seemed to draw from the rhythms and just not stop moving. If you get chance you really must go see Justin Adams & Juldeh Camara play, but whatever you do, take your dancing shoes. The Lunecy Review (Live review from the Brewery Arts Centre) (UK)
  • An exciting new venture Justin Adams & Juldeh Camara Gutsy rock and roll riffs echoed round the grand Tudor hall as Justin Adams' electric guitar burst into life. Then Juldeh Camara joined the party, responding with plaintive and tuneful vocal wails and violin-like notes teased from his one-stringed riti. Behind them, poised beneath the enormous stone fireplace, percussionist Roy Dodds sat on a big wooden box and beat it with his hands. From this extraordinary sonic mix a magical spark escaped, slowly but surely flooding the room with a rousing, yet peaceful, joie de vivre. Few in the healthy-sized audience were familiar with this innovative partnership of spirited African vibes and raw rock, but it took less than one song to get toes tapping, hips swaying and heads nodding. The slim, wiry, dark-suited groove master Justin, and Juldeh, tall, proud and smiling in floor-length, vibrant green Gambian robes, presented a striking visual contrast, with bespectacled Roy bridging the gap, perched low down, surrounded by his hotch-potch of percussive instruments. The two key players displayed a musical bond of great strength, respect and depth, conversing through their instruments and singing voices to create a thrilling unity. Justin is a great guitarist and singer, as well as impeccably polite and affable as he introduced each song, but it was Juldeh who fascinated, plucking, bowing and stroking his primitive single-stringed weapon to make so many different sounds with such apparent ease and evident pleasure. Stealthily they pushed the pace and pitch to a hypnotic and triumphant finale, confirming that theirs is an exciting musical experiment that is ripe for much wider exposure. Western Morning News (Live review from Dartington Hall) (UK)
  • Seamless meeting of contrasting cultures An English rock guitarist and a Gambian griot met on a phone date - sounds like the set-up for a joke, but the punchline is a seamless meeting of contrasting cultures. ...splicing of Adams' bluesy playing with Camara's adaptable dexterity on the riti, a one-string fiddle, and his elastic vocals made for an effortless, often hypnotic hybrid. Adams would strike up an African riff, then drop in some rock'n'roll phrasing and Camara would skilfully roll with the changes, providing rapid-fire chants as well as a lightning natural facility on a number of stringed instruments. Accompanied by a drummer tapping on a tea chest, they also moved their focus eastwards, dipping into the meditative, minimalist mantras of the Saharan blues. The Scotsman (Scotland)
  • Groundbreaking LP - a visual electric fusion of Europe and Africa Justin Adams, who has toured extensively with Robert Plant, teams up once again with Juldeh Camara for a UK tour this winter in support of their second album, Tell No Lie's. ...groundbreaking LP - a visual electric fusion of Europe and Africa - a meeting of western Rock and African griot....together the pair have been the winners of the BBC World Music Award. In their second collaboration, the pair fuses the Sun Studio sound with Gambia as Adams brings Clash-style punk energy to West African trance rhythm. Maverick (UK)
  • Otherworldly Otherworldly, soulful and rooted in the mystery and reality of life...Check out the down-and-dirty blues of "Fulani Coochie Man," with Camara's keening wail and Adams' gritty guitar. This amazing music is as contemporary as it is ancient, with an almost primordial spirit. Rock fans will find a lot to like here, as will open-eared music fans." Arkansas Democrat Gazette (USA)
  • Utterly Natural Amazingly, Adams' electric riffs sound utterly natural beside the keening, rustic riti lines scraped out Camara, who's a phenomenally soulful and expressive singer. The pair…make the cross-cultural blend work because they clearly understand both sides of the equation. Downbeat (USA)
  • Montreal jazz fest 2009: Justin & Juldeh make beautiful music I've been waiting all week for this concert. Last week I was given a copy of Tell No Lies, the second collaborative album by British blues guitarist Justin Adams and Gambian musician Juldeh Camara. Bottom line: it blew me away, and I've had this night circled in my calendar ever since. Justin and Juldeh play a kind of musical fusion that most artists can only dream about. They have so perfectly combined American blues with West African music that it's hard to believe these two genres weren't always meant to exist in this form. And at their Friday night concert at the Montreal International Jazz Festival, they proved this fact to the entire audience. Despite being tucked away on the somewhat secluded Bell stage, these guys still managed to draw an enormous crowd of uninhibited dancers. Accompanied only by a percussionist, the duo - with Adams on electric guitar and Camara playing primarily the ritti, a one-stringed African fiddle - played through songs from Tell No Lies as well as oldies from their first album. As a fan of their new record, I can safely say that these guys did not disappoint. Their energy was absolutely infectious, their performance honest and beautiful. Immediately clear is the bond between these two musicians: two men from vastly different backgrounds playing together like kindred spirits. Near the end of this beautiful concert, Adams made a confession: "Tonight is the first time Juldeh and I have played on this side of the Atlantic!" The crowd roared with applause, and all I could think was "please come back soon." The Gazette (Canada)
  • Adams and Camara bring desert blues into focus Eleven new desert blues tracks from British guitarist Justin Adams in collaboration with Gambian one-string spike fiddler Juldeh Camara. They mix Northwest African sounds with Western rock dynamics in new and exciting ways that never lose the integrity of their sources. Think Ali Farqa Toure meets Bo Diddley in a battle of the bands. Absolutely essential hypnotic trance music. North Shore News (Canada)
  • Adams' guitars and Camara's ritti sound destined to play together ...The unmistakable African roots come with Camara's Gambian heritage and experience. And the hard-edged blues/rock guitar comes from Adams' years in punk and rock. How they came together is a long story that passes through Jah Wobble, Bill Laswell, the Festival in the Desert, and Robert Plant.Justin Adams & Juldeh Camara - Tell No Lies - on SoundRoots.org The resulting music is sometimes like a deep-blue, Africanized Muddy Waters (check out the African fiddle on the smoldering "Fulani Coochie Man"). On the other end of the spectrum is the upbeat song of love, or at least infatuation, "Banjul Girl." Perhaps the most striking song is "Kele Kele / No Passport No Visa," which manages to marry a Bo Diddley beat. ....Somehow Adams' guitars and Camara's ritti (one stringed fiddle) and kologo (two-stringed banjo) just sound destined to play together. SoundRoots (USA)
  • Rock 'N' Roll Goes To West Africa British guitarist Justin Adams takes time out from his gig with Robert Plant to rock out with Juldeh Camara, a traditional Fulani musician from the Gambia. Adams' production style has been described as "The-Clash-meets-desert," but it also includes a healthy dose of R&B, Bo Diddley and the spookier sides of the Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin. What is amazing in this pairing is the raw spontaneity from Camara, both on vocals and on the one-string violin called the riti. From West Africa to the cities of the United States, to the U.K. and back to the West African source, Adams and Camara, like Vieux Farka Toure, are helping to tighten a big circle of history and music. It's a process that has been going on for a long time, but it has never come so easily. NPR Music (USA)
  • Live Review: The Lincoln Center, NY From the moment that the group came on stage, Adams in his sharp, pink shirt, Camara in his green boubou, and their percussionist Salah Dawson Miller in his Bedouin-inspired robe, beads, and headscarf, one could feel the synergy of three very different individuals. Over time they have come to wear off on each other in very interesting ways. On "Madam Mariama," for example, Adam's trance-inducing electric guitar riff and Miller's conga playing provide an innovative, yet sensible accompaniment to Camara's solos on his riti, or one-string spike fiddle. This song worked equally well in a western chamber hall as it would have as praise, along the tradition of griots like Camara for praising his benefactors in West Africa.... They may have not played their hit "Kele Kele," but the lyrics continue to play in my head, "No passport, no visa, I'm coming back to you." We can only hope that they will do exactly that. The Huffington Post (USA)
  • A Worldbeat Hit: Sunfest live review With Camara wailing on his ritti - an African one-string fiddle - Adams, who was last in London with ex-Led Zep frontman Robert Plant, kept the Bo beat going. It was a beautiful sample of what Adams calls "Afrobilly,'' when he is talking about their music. The duo's album Tell No Lies is a worldbeat hit. It is drenched in Bo Diddley sounds on several tracks. There are also detours through the blues, like Fulani Coochie Man, which echoes the Chicago blues sounds of Muddy Waters if he had learned his guitar along the Niger, not the Mississippi. It was another blast of blue truth last night. The blues and Africa weren't all the duo had going for them. There was a little punk rock attitude in there, too. The London Free Press (Canada)
  • Pure Magic Together, these two performers are pure magic, creating something that is unique, raw and powerful. Their first single, Kele Kele (No Passport, No Visa), could easily be my favorite song of the summer. Fusion (radio) Seattle (US)
  • This amazing music is as contemporary as it is ancient... "We hear the interplay of the haunting beauty of griot ballads, blues that recall Muddy Waters and Lead Belly, bracing guitar rock (think early The Who and The Clash) and hints of Celtic, R&B and hip-hop. Check out the down-and-dirty blues of "Fulani Coochie Man," with Camara's keening wail and Adams' gritty guitar. This amazing music is as contemporary as it is ancient, with an almost primordial spirit. Rock fans will find a lot to like here, as will open-eared music fans." Arkansas Democrat-Gazette (USA)
  • A Triumph Gambian musician Juldeh Camara is a virtuoso on the ritti. In his hands, this rustic, one-stringed fiddle provides a supple accompaniment to his vocals: rolling fables, wry observations and passionate declamations, all sung in the Fulani language. He's an immensely likable performer. So far, so world music. But Camara's partner for this project is Justin Adams, aka the second-hardest-working man in world music. Adams's intent is to take African music off the coffee table, and he's succeeded on the duo's acclaimed new album Tell No Lies.Listen to tracks such as Achu, which evokes Howlin' Wolf, with call-and-response vocals and an irresistible pulse. Listen to Kele Kele (No Passport No Visa), driven by Adams's cracking Bo Diddley-esque guitar rhythm and Martin Barker's choppy drum beat, while Camara's vocals soar over swirling ritti and Mim Suleiman's ecstatic backing vocals. Despite the quartet's small resources, they produce a wall of sound, their numbers ending with ferociously heads-down, no-nonsense boogie, and jams reminiscent of the 60s blues boom (we Brits have always had a soft spot for this). Adams and Camara, like Amadou and Mariam, make serious play with the many similarities between western blues-rock and West African music - the ritti even sounds like a blues harp on occasion. Adams's guitar provides the bedrock for the band's adventures, from the loping, Ry Cooderish riff of Gainako to the distorted drama of Sahara. Suleiman, from Zanzibar via Sheffield, is a vital element, adding light, shade and shakers. Regular percussionist Salah Dawson Miller, who has been unwell, joins the band for the encore, Fulani Coochie Man, the title making their refracted blues agenda even more explicit. A triumph. The Guardian (Live Review at the Jazz Cafe) (UK)
  • Influential Justin Adams is probably the most influential catalyst of African-Western musical crossovers of the last couple of decades… The Independent (UK)
  • Stunning Stunning… it's as though an African troubadour wandered into Sun Studios... Daily Express (UK)
  • Exhilarating and Enthusiastic ...the interplay between the two sounds almost effortless as they switch from slinky Bo Diddley-style riffs to rolling blues with an African edge, and quieter trance-like songs. Magnificent. Guardian (UK)
  • Like a Blast of Hot Saharan Wind ...an exotic, brilliantly realised example of a happy fusion of cultures. The Sun (UK)
  • An Extraordinary Album This is an extraordinary album...picks up where Muddy Waters and Bo Diddley left off and leads us deep into their roots... Mojo (UK)
  • Highly Impressive Stuff The stars of the show are still Adams' growling, earthy guitar and Camara's soaring ritti (single string fiddle)...Highly impressive stuff. Songlines (UK)
  • More Elemental Than Ever ...The deepest trance-blues this side of Timbuktu. Tougher, louder, edgier and more elemental than ever... Uncut (UK)