The Black Earth Boys are Justin Adams, Juldeh Camara and Ben Mandelson. The band is an aggregate of two others -- with Adams as the link between. Justin and Juldeh, now touring internationally under the name "JuJu," have recorded two CDs, Soul Science and Tell No Lies. Camara, who is from Gambia, is a singer, instrument maker, and master of the ritti, a single-stringed, violin-like instrument. Adams is well-known for his long association with singer Robert Plant. His great strength is groove; no flashy mile-a-minute riffs, simply a guitar style that FEELS just right, and is an excellent partnering with Camara's flights of improvisation.
Ben Mandelson is not only a fine musician, he is a real life hero of world music. Back when I was first listening to recordings of what would eventually be called "world music," it was Ben's productions I often found myself checking out. Here we see him comfortably supplying tasty fills, textural motifs and rhythmic drive on mandolin.
Adams, Mandelson and Lu Edmonds (unavailable for this performance) have their own ensemble, "Les Triaboliques," a project that has them gleefully galloping through all the musical influences they have gathered in their past and present lives.
This performance, from Lincoln Center's Out of Doors series, took place in Damrosch Park. The repertoire was primarily a melding of American folk and blues with Camara bringing the West African flavor. His ritti at times sounded like a fiddle, and eerily, at times like a harmonica. It was a surprisingly cohesive sound, reminding us once again of the debt that our music owes to African culture. While Adams' gritty voice sang a simpler, countrified interpretation of Carter Family standby "Sow 'Em on the Mountain," Camara's vocal takes a soaring, melismatic approach. Great stuff.
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