Justin Adams

Desert Road

“Britain’s answer to Ry Cooder,” Justin Adams, is an original guitarist.

Raised the son of a “very English” diplomat in the Middle East, he’s played 20 years with Jah Wobble, Peter Gabriel and Robert Plant. Adams’ recent trek to Mali re-inspired him. His Desert Road is as atmospheric as it is dubby and punchy. Adams provides inspired riffs on reverbed guitar, repetitive sparse grooves on “n’goni” (a three-string Malian banjo) and visceral singing. Pulsed by African percussion and accents (bells, shakers, scrapers), Adams pulls his inspiration from the blues that people now trace to Mali but bends and blends African music with electronic ambience.

His music is about space, the space surrounding notes allowing music to breathe as well as the vastness of the desert. Sonically painting a landscape from memory, he brings the panorama into larger view as his 12 pieces unfolds, each eliciting a response to the varying aspects of the desert’s complex disposition.

Like a powerful engine, punchy African percussion chugs “Wayward” and Desert Road along. While the unsettling sound of noisy metal soars above the “Runway,” the tarmac below patiently melts in the sun. Eventually, North Africa’s Sahara Desert extends all the way to the “Dark Sea,” the mother of all African mirages. A living joy, one of nature’s expressions of beauty and grace, the “Hummingbird” is suspended as if by charm and the cycling m’bira rhythm on guitar. Possibility and surety instantly exchange with a glimpse of the “First Star” in the night sky. Just a few of the things you might experience on the Desert Road.