Is it just a coincidence or did the artist fall head over heels for that salty, pinkish flesh over the course of a trip to Italy? In this case, if we transpose it into American eating habits (from where the acronym in his name could refer to), salami becomes peperoni, made famous by representing 30% of the average Pizza Hut-type pizza’s toppings, doped on fats. Well, it’s a little classier, etymologically speaking, anyway. So why “L.A. Salami”? Let’s make a note that in a European person’s mind (a non-negligible population of musical lovers), salami can be considered quite sickening, or even sexual. Granted, this sexy-charcuterie aside has no interest whatsoever. I simply ask of you not to stop at the latter’s name. You’d be missing out on so much.
Oh, dear! Shame on me when I learned a bit more about the artist. Please shoo away all the thoughts (if we can even call them that) undertaken until now. L.A. Salami simply stems from his real name: Lookman Adekunie Salami! My profoundest apologies! My ignorance distorted my judgment, no less filled with good intentions, especially after listening to his incredible masterpiece. For the story, the young Englishman began playing guitar a few years ago, after having been given one for his 21st birthday. “No one got me an instrument before because no one could afford it”, he says, and yet 2016 marks the release of his first album.
“Dancing With Bad Grammar” is a tour de force of stirring, poetic as much as controversial post-modern blues. The word play and their meanings are thwarted and ironically used to denounce the chaotic use of the latter and the inevitable fading of poetry, meaning the end of an era. By combining urban folk and hip-hop’s lapidary statements, he tries to restore a universal and common artistic bloc, within everyone’s reach. He recorded the album in one week at Ulchin Studios in Hackney, London. “I wanted to make this album live, I’m not really into the whole online music thing”, he adds. L.A. worked with sound engineer Dan Cox and producer Matt Ingram, who has worked with Florence and The Machine, Laura Marling and Michael Kiwanuka amongst others. The first single, “The City Nowadays”, offers a first glimpse of the artist’s singularity. It’s a powerful waterfall of ideas and influences; from his insisting flow, close to “slam” for the poetic nature of the lyrics, with a very distinctive bluesy guitar sound and immersive gospel choirs. On the fringes of this beautiful turmoil, we also detect rock, more marked in the unexpected riffs of the first and brilliant track “Going Mad As The Street Bins”, yet more similar to folk music in its first seconds. All these surprises, these rhythm shifts and sudden changes in genres make up the charm of L.A. Salami.
“I call my music postmodern blues. I’ve always loved the blues, and I think of this album as my version of blues songs.” Other than “The City Nowadays”, practically all the tracks are a part of this process. There are tracks that are exclusively folk-sounding, like “Days To Days” on which he plays the harmonica, “Why Don’t You Help Me?” and “I Can’t Slow Her Down”, who come very close to Nick Drake and his sidekick’s ghosts. “I want to portray modern life using the past as a vehicle”, he concludes. “I love ’60s and ’70s music, that’s where my heart is. But I don’t want it to sound of the past, I want it to speak of now.” Lovingly, I gladly let myself be bundled up in this time machine. Let he who loves him follow me.