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Justin Adams & Mauro Durante
Still Moving

Ponderosa
Review by Chris Nickson

Listen "Cupa Cupa" (excerpt)

Guitarist and producer Justin Adams, probably best-known as part of Robert Plant’s band, met Mauro Durante, the violinist/singer/percussionist for Italy’s CanzionIere Grecanico Salentino (GCS) when the pair of them worked on composer Ludovico Einaudi’s 2015 Taranta Project album. It marked the beginning of a very firm friendship. Adams was a guest on the recent CGS release, and during lockdown the two of them worked up this disc. Adams’s deep roots lie in the desert blues (he produced the very first Tinariwen album) while Durante’s soul is consumed by the taranta music of his native Southern Italy. But they’ve found that there’s plenty of common ground between those areas.

Listen "Dark Road Down" (excerpt)

Cut in a single session in 2020 during a brief period between lockdowns, just the two of them, this is a place where ideas come together. The power behind the mix is evident on the shuffling opener, “Dark Road Down,” which could almost be John Lee Hooker recording in the heel of the boot of Italy, punctuated by local singing. Dry, moving – still moving – and relentless, it shows how well the cultures can work and create something new. As a contrast, an illustration of the breadth of music, it’s followed by a traditional Italian song that showcases Durante’s powerful, moving voice inside a spare, stunning frame.

Listen "Djinn Pulse" (excerpt)

The collaboration reaches its height on the beautiful but unsettling instrumental, “Djinn Pulse.” It’s a simple melody, but perfectly arranged and executed, opening out and spreading under the insistence of Durante’s violin with its taranta rhythm to propel the guitar arpeggios in a fashion that would likely make Einaudi proud.

Listen "Red Earth" (excerpt)

Yet, for all that beauty, it’s probably “Red Earth” that best showcases the way two cultures can combine, as a lead on the violin moves the track along and guitar offers fulsome support. It’s breathless at times, driving – mesmerizing and irresistible. The disc closes on an unlikely note, a cover of the Carter Family’s “Little Moses.” It might be music that originated far from any desert or dry heat, but the country music godfathers had the blues in their hearts (at least AP Carter did), and here the fragile ballad morphs into something more powerful with guitar and frame drum that draws it closer to the Mississippi Delta and back across the Atlantic.

Listen "Calling Up" (excerpt)

This is a labour of love and friendship, no mistake about that. An experiment to see what happens when things are mixed together. The answer? It works majestically. – Chris Nickson

Photo: Ugo Dalla Porta
Find the artists online: Mauro Durante and Justin Adams

Further reading and listening:
Canzionere Grecanico Salentino
A 2021 interview with Mauro Durante
Ludovico Einaudi's Taranta Project

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