Doug Cox, Salil Bhatt, Ramkumar Mishra,
Slide to Freedom
(NorthernBlues, 2007)

"West Meets East" CDs have been around at least since an album of that name was made by Ravi Shankar and violinist Yehudi Menuhin some decades ago. Slide to Freedom is a worthy addition to this genre, mixing string instruments from different traditions.

Doug Cox plays both wooden and metal Resophonic guitars. He is joined by Salil Bhatt on Satvik veena and Ramkumar Mishra on tabla. On two tracks, Bhatt's father Vishwa Mohan Bhatt plays Mohna veena.

The veena is an Indian instrument that sounds and looks something like a sitar, at least to Western eyes and ears. The Satvik and Mohna veenas are modifications that make the veena play more like an acoustic guitar.

Three of the eight tracks are blues sung by Cox: "Pay Day" by Mississippi John Hurt, "Soul of a Man" by Blind Willie Johnson and Cox's own "Beware of the Man (who calls you Bro)." The others are extended Indian-type instrumentals.

The instrumentals come off better because Cox seems to have more of a feel for Indian music than the others do for the blues. The blues songs sound like novelties, backed with tabla and with inserted veena solos. The Indian tunes emulate short ragas, about eight to ten minutes long. Most begin languorously and build in speed to dramatic finishes.

The veena dominates, and Cox would not be mistaken for a classical Eastern musician, but he fits in much better than you might expect. At times he adds some slide blues and country licks, but he mostly plays counterpoint to the veena with (I assume) special tuning on his Resophonic.

This is a complex and well thought-out experiment that should appeal to both blues and world music listeners.

[ visit the artist's website ]

review by
Dave Howell

5 April 2008

Agree? Disagree?
Send us your opinions!

what's new