The Unseen Guest,
Check Point
(Tuition, 2007)

Like sequels to a book or film, some things are so good the first time round there's no hope of duplicating the level of enjoyment.

Fortunately, that wasn't the case when Declan Murray and Amith Narayan put together this second collaborative album as the Unseen Guest. I enjoyed Check Point as much as I did their first album, Out There.

It's folk/blues with a unique twist. Though you'll hear hints of the familiar, the music they make is unusual, primarily because of the blending of traditional Indian instruments with Western structure. Declan's mellow voice and poetic lyrics and the colorful blend of instruments are equally enticing. It's exotic and pleasant.

The group came about when Murray met Narayan while he was traveling in south India in 2002. The two became friends, teaming up later to jam, busk and sing in Mumbai where Amith was based. Later in the year, Amith contacted Declan and suggested recording an album mixing Indian and Western music. The following year they met up again in Amith's hometown of Calicut in Kerala, assembled a rotating cast of local musicians and set to work on recording their debut album.

It would be hard for me to name a favorite from the 11 tracks on this album. A few I really like are "Miracle Mile," "Ancient Greek" and "Everybody Knows."

Murray provides lead vocals and plays acoustic and electric guitar, harmonica, piano and an assortment of miscellaneous percussion instruments. Narayan provides vocal harmony and plays 6- and 12-string acoustic guitar and mandolin. Other musicians include Anil Kumar, bass dholak, ghadan, shakers, cabasa, chimes and hand percussion; Sumodh Sridhar, tablas, dholaks, ganjira and shakers; Shah Jahan Vaadiyil, violin and string; Raju George, saxophone; Manikanden and Prasad, string section; Rizon, flutes; and Curtis King, harmonica.

review by
John R. Lindermuth

23 February 2008

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