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Doug Cox and Salil Bhatt - Slide to Freedom

Slide to Freedom

Doug Cox & Salil Bhatt

NBM0039

Northern Blues Music
225 Sterling Road, Unit 19
Toronto, Ontario, Canada M6R 2B2

Available from Northern Blues Music web site

A review written for the Folk and Acoustic Music Exchange
by Frank Gutch Jr.
(frank.gutch.jr@gmail.com)

Slide to Freedom encompasses the very heart of the counterculture of late sixties San Francisco and more. Just think of it. A CD produced by "everyone involved". Music created by musicians who are in every sense of the term brothers under the skin. Brotherhood breathing life through speakers until you actually believe that a better future is possible, if only... If only you had lived during Ralph J. Gleason's days at Rolling Stone, you would understand.

Even if you didn't, understand this. When Doug Cox, Salil Bhatt, Ramkumar Mishra and Vishwa Mohan Bhatt created Slide to Freedom, they created a blend of Mississippi blues and Indian music which transcends genre because sometimes, just sometimes, music is everything. From the beautiful slide work kicking off Mississippi John Hurt's Pay Day to the communal laughs and chatter at the conclusion of the jam Meeting By the Liver you hear it. These sessions were special.

Pay Day is the perfect opener. Doug Cox has a voice not unlike those born in the Delta, slightly rough and wavering yet in tune with the music. Interplay between Cox's resonator guitar and Bhatt's Satvik Veena is simple but magic. There could hardly be a better introduction to the acoustic blues. Blind Willie Johnson's Soul of a Man and Cox's Beware of the Man (Who Calls You Bro) step a bit further into the intricacies of the acoustic blues without overstepping the bounds. Beware, with its choogling rhythm and classic R&B feel, even creeps toward the edge of rock (just plug the instruments in and you're there).

The inclusion of Vishwa Mohan Bhatt's Father Kirwani is the one purely Indian-influenced piece. Driven by Mishra's masterful and rhythmic tabla, both veenas and resonator feed off of one another, theme and variation planted one after the other. It is good enough to make George Harrison turn his head, were he still among us.

Bhoopali Dance, Arabian Night and Fish Pond" take elements of both styles and create a smooth flowing and, at times, almost meditative amalgamation—not blues and not Indian. The veena, sounding like a cross between a sitar and an acoustic guitar, gives each an other-worldly feel.

The real treasure, though, is the ending jam, titled Meeting By the Liver. With laid back, rhythmic groove courtesy of Mishra, Cox and Salil Bhatt do battle sixties-style, first one and then the other either laying the groundwork or cranking out leads. Throw in a light show and you're back at the Fillmore for close to nine minutes of a mind-boggling jam that would have had Cream shaking their collective heads. By the end, you will more than likely join in the spontaneous laughter of the musicians who must have known at that moment how truly magical those few minutes were. It just goes to show you that sometimes you just don't need a stack of Marshalls to make your point.

When they said this was produced "by everyone", they weren't kidding. Profusive thanks are given to Miles Wilkinson, who recorded, mixed and mastered it; A Man Called Wycraft (Michael Wycraft) who put together a quite impressive four page digipak folder; and Fred Litwin, whose pictures grace the package.

Doug Cox himself said it in the liner notes: "It wasn't a normal session. It was the highlight of my musical days to take part in such a collaboration of free music with such giving musicians." The music on this disc says those aren't just words. They are testament.

Track List:

  • Pay Day
  • Bhoopali Dance
  • Arabian Night
  • Soul of a Man
  • Fish Pond
  • Father Kirwani
  • Beware of the Man (Who Calls You Bro)
  • Meeting By the Liver
Pay Day by Mississippi John Hurt (Songs of Windswept Pacific), Soul of a Man by Blind Willie Johnson (Public Domain), Father Kirwani by Vishwa Mohan Bhatt (IPRS), Beware of the Man (Who Calls You Bro) by Doug Cox (SOCAN). All others by Doug Cox (SOCAN), Salil Bhatt & Ramkumar Mishra (IPRS).

Edited by: David N. Pyles
(dnpyles@acousticmusic.com)

Copyright 2007, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.

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