Monday, September 7, 2009

Justin Adams: Rocking guitarist and gimbri player

Justin Adams is another one of my favorite musicians. He's been on my radar screen since the early 2000's, when he joined Robert Plant's band called Strange Sensation. In the pictures above, he shows some of his talents, namely playing the guitar and playing the gnawa-ian Gimbri.

If you listen to the Strange Sensations debut CD, you'll hear a version of Hey Joe. Likewise, if you happen to have any of the Strange Sensation DVD's of them live in Concert, you'll see Justin playing the Gimbri intro and rhythm throughout their version of Hey Joe.

Hey Joe has been covered hundreds of times by "famous" recording artists, and probably tens of thousands of times if you include bar bands and the like. But the unconventional version, which is unconventional in large part due to the driving rhythm of the gimbri played by Justin Adams.

I was so inspired by the sound back in 2002 when Dreamland came out that I found a gimbri to purchase. It's history is unique. Wikipedia says it better than I can:

The sintir (Arabic: سنتير‎), also known as the Guembri (Arabic: الكمبري‎), Gimbri or Hejhouj, is a three stringed skin-covered bass plucked lute used by the Gnawa people. It is approximately the size of a guitar, with a body a carved from a log and covered on the playing side with camel. The neck is a simple stick with one short and two long goat strings that produce a percussive sound similar to a pizzicato cello or double bass.

Here's a link to Justin's myspace page:

Here's a wikipedia entry on Strange Sensation. Unfortunately, former drummer Michael Lee has passed on back in November of 2008. Lee was one of my favorite drummers to work with Plant and with Plant and Page. I had high hopes that if Jason Bonham wouldn't do the Led Zeppelin Reunion that Michael Lee would be asked, but that was not to be.

Strange Sensation
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The Strange Sensation is Robert Plant's backing band, formed during his nine-year break from solo recording. After 1993's Fate of Nations, Plant teamed up with former Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page to form Page and Plant. The first album, No Quarter: Jimmy Page and Robert Plant Unledded, explored world music reinterpretations of Led Zeppelin songs, featuring a Moroccan string band and Egyptian orchestra supplementing a core group of rock and roll musicians. The duo's next album, Walking into Clarksdale and the subsequent tour were more traditional rock enterprises. Plant turned his attention to North African music, in particular Tuareg rock and Mali's desert music festivals.
In 2002, Plant returned with
Dreamland, an album of blues and rock covers with the original Strange Sensation lineup, but credited as a Plant solo album. The following release was 2003's Sixty Six to Timbuktu, a compilation that included his earliest solo recordings for CBS Records as a teenager in 1966, to his newest song, "Win My Train Fare Home (If I'm Lucky)," performed at Mali's Festival of the Desert with Justin Adams. On 25 April 2005, the first full-length Strange Sensation album was released: Mighty ReArranger, a blend of world and Western music influences, with mystical, oblique and somewhat cynical references to religion and destiny. The album also contains some subtle political statements.
On 16 September 2005, the band performed Robert Plant and Led Zeppelin songs at Soundstage Studios in
Chicago, and the performance was broadcast in the 2006-2007 season of the PBS series Soundstage. This has also been released on DVD as Soundstage: Robert Plant and the Strange Sensation.

[edit] Lineup
Justin Adams -
bass, bendir, lap steel guitar, mandolin, tehardant; Wayward Sheiks member and former collaborater with Jah Wobble and Tuareg Tinariwen
John Baggott - keyboards and synthesizer; jazz and trip hop artist, also a member of Portishead's live band
Clive Deamer - bendir and drums; a jazz-influenced player who has appeared on trip hop albums and is also a member of Portishead's live band
Billy Fuller - electric and stand-up bass; formerly of Fuzz Against Junk and currently also a member of The Moles and Malakai
Robert Plant - vocals
Skin Tyson - bass, acoustic, electric and lap steel guitars; Britpop musician with Cast and Men from Mars

[edit] Former members
Charlie Jones - bassist for Page and Plant
Porl Thompson - multi-instrumentalist for Page and Plant, current member of The Cure
Michael Lee - drummer for Page and Plant

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