Saturday, September 19, 2009

In review--Making a better world

Doug Cox & Salil Bhatt
Slide to Freedom 2
Make a Better World
Northern Blues

In 2003 I interviewed Canadian bluesman Harry Manx at the Vancouver International Folk Festival. As we sat in the gorgeous Jericho Beach park (Vancouver, Canada), and the sun washed over us, Harry and I discussed his unique blend of American blues and classical Indian ragas. I was also introduced to the music of Vishwa Mohan Bhatt, founder of the Mohan Veena. As synchronicity played its role, I received 2 albums by Vishwa Mohan Bhatt shortly after that, which I enjoyed immensely.

Fast forward to the present where I am listening to Vishwa's son, Salil Bhatt, also a Indian slide guitarist, team up with Canadian slide guitarist Doug Cox on Slide to Freedom 2 (Make a Better World). You'll find nothing short of high-vibrational music on this disc. Blues pieces sung by John Boutte mix with ragas. I especially like the blues piece, I Scare Myself and of course, the rousing For You Blues, penned by the late George Harrison, not a stranger to Indian classical music and a friend of Vishwa Mohan Bhatt. The musicians' rendition of Amazing Grace also deserves a mention.

A mixture of lap-style guitars, Indian slide guitar, tabla, bass and vocals takes listeners to the deep American South or straight off to Northern India. Transcendental moments alternate with earthy ones. And this is one of those albums where hitting the repeat button would be a good option. I never thought I would find blues that cause me to feel this happy.

Classical Indian music also blends with American jazz, as heard on bansuri (flute) player Deepak Ram's Steps. I mention Deepak's CD because Slide to Freedom 2 recalls that CD too. Perhaps making the world a better place revolves around sharing and exchanging musical expression. I know my world is better because of this exchange.

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