June 24, 2009
June 26, 2009
June 18, 2009
3 1/2 stars "When roots guitarist Cox sat on the floor mats of a studio barn in British Columbia to perform with three Indian classical musicians - Salil Bhatt, on satvik veena (a 20-string instrument, played with a metal bar); Salil's father, V.M. Mohan, master of the 19-string mohan veena (on two songs); and tabla player Ramkumar Mishra - he engaged in an act of liberation from the conventions of the blues. The Canadian lost himself in the details and dvelopments of his lines and in the overlaps and intersections with the the others' virtuosic patterns. Five non-categorizable instrumentals, each inventive and thrilling, make the Cox blues "Beware of the Man" and curry-spiced treatments of two old country blues numbers (Cox sings these three) sound like pleasant nothings." Frank John Hadley - Downbeat Magazine
SLIDE TO FREEDOM â€“ Doug Cox & Salil Bhatt (Northern Blues Music NBM. 0039) This is brilliant! Can you imagine a fusion of country-blues with Indian classical music? Well, something like it has been tried before, and Iâ€™ve got several examples in my collection, eg most recently the famed Waterlily Acoustics titles from the 1990s where slide maestro Vishwa Mohan Bhatt teamed up with a series of blues/roots celebrities such as Ry Cooder or Taj Mahal. VMâ€™s instrument was the 19-string mohan veena, which in effect he invented by a redesign of the western Hawaiian guitar â€“ to which he added drone and sympathetic strings to enable the assimilation of sitar, sarod and veena techniques. VMâ€™s son Salil here plays the 20-stringed satvik veena, which allows him to incorporate both vocal (gayaki) and instrumental (tantrakari) representations from Indian classical music within his dynamic and exhilarating playing style. But weâ€™re eased in gently with a version of Mississippi John Hurtâ€™s Pay Day, where Salilâ€™s instrument is introduced gradually â€“ yet once his presence is established in the aural picture nothing could sound more natural working in with Dougâ€™s resonator guitar (dobro to you and me!) and the scintillating tabla rhythms provided by Ramkumar Mishra. The disc contains two further examples of blues-type pieces given the gentle-spirited fusion treatment: Blind Willie Johnsonâ€™s Soul Of A Man (some fine syncopated drumming here too) and Dougâ€™s own determinedly wry composition Beware Of The Man: both are a triumph for the participants, who are clearly getting high on the interplay and spark a real sense of enjoyment alongside the obvious empathy they have as musicians. Salilâ€™s veena, with its characteristic insistent tone and method of attack would appear to contradict the essentially laid-back character of the dobro, but the contributions (and personalities) of the two instruments are heard to have more in common than might at first be suspected. The remainder of the disc comprises a selection of more obviously Indian-inspired items, mostly joint exercises in composition by the three musicians. Arabian Night, despite its title, seems to take the form of a brief raga, with veena and guitar taking the call-and-response roles from the introductory alap through to the ensuing exposition, whereas Bhoopali Dance is more akin to an impressionistic episode and the dobro harmonics positively gleam and glisten, and the discâ€™s finale, Meeting By The Liver, includes a tabla solo that ushers in a suitably aroused conclusion to the proceedings. Father Kirwani, a composition by VM Bhatt, sees Dougâ€™s instrument take the lead in the call-and-response alap, yet there are times when itâ€™s hard to tell which musician is playing, so close and sincerely imitative are their individual contributions. The dance the musicians lead is even more vital on this track and Soul Of A Man due to the guest presence of VM himself adding another intricate layer to the richly detailed texture, with which the recording copes superbly (as throughout, in fact). This is a record filled with virtuoso playing, sure, but one that should give enormous pleasure to anyone prepared to open their ears to the possibilities its completely natural musical fusion affords â€“ listener or practising musician alike.
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 amalgamationâ€”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. Frank Gutch Jr - FAME
The new album, Slide To Freedom not only features Mr.Cox on various Resonator guitars, wooden and aluminium, Mr. Bhatt on the Satvik Veena, and percussion by Ramkumar Mishra on Tabla, but Vishwa Mohan Bhatt sits in on two songs with his Mohan Veena. The result is pure magic. The Veena, which is the basis for both the fatherâ€™s and sonâ€™s instruments is, to put it very simply, like a long skinny lap guitar that the player sits behind and plucks the strings with the fingers of one hand and depresses them with the other hand. Usually they have two hollow gourds that they rest on and which also serve as resonators I would guess. Both Bhatt elder and junior have adapted this basic model and combined elements of it with a Western guitar body. Salil Bhatâ€™s Satvik Veena retains the extra resonator under what we would refer to as the head of the guitar â€“ furthest away from the hollow body. The Mohan Veena of his fatherâ€™s design has more in common with a guitar, with only the addition of a board along which an extra twelve strings are run marking it as different. Itâ€™s these strings that generate the sound we in the West associate with the sitar â€“ the long drawn out sound reminiscent of bells if they were a string instrument. Look at the two men in the picture and youâ€™ll be able to see some of what Iâ€™m talking about. But to be honest with you I donâ€™t really care what an instrument looks like, I want to know what it sounds like and what the meeting of these three players results in. In a lot of instances where completely different forms of music come together one or the other is forced to make accommodations. So does Salil try to make his Satvik Veena sound like a Western instrument or does Doug try and make his resonator guitar sound like a sitar and forget that it produces a valuable sound in its own right? Somehow or other none of that happens; the three principal musicians, Cox, Salil, and Mishra on tabla (the two drums are referred to as one instrument when talking about the tabla not two â€“ tablas plural is two sets of drums) have found a place where all three instruments blend seamlessly together while never losing their distinctiveness. If on occasion it becomes difficult to tell where one leaves off and the other begins itâ€™s only because they have made the sound a non-issue and have put the focus squarely on the songs performed instead. Whether itâ€™s one of the two old Delta Blues songs, â€œPay Dayâ€ by Mississippi John Hurt, or â€œSoul Of A Manâ€ by Blind Willie Johnson or the pieces the three of them have created collaboratively it doesnâ€™t matter. With each of the three, or four as the case may be, giving their attention to what they can bring to a piece of music, regardless of what they sound like, the whole becomes greater then the sum of itâ€™s parts. When that happens it becomes impossible for our attention as a listener not to travel along the same path. In the end we are able to judge them by the same criteria we would use to judge any piece of Blues music; how well does it work melodically, rhythmically, and emotionally to express the Blues. In my mind that proves just how successful Slide To Freedom is. Once your ear is used to the exotic nature of the tabla keeping beat, and the new sounds generated by both the Satvik Veena and Mohan Veena, you find yourself listening to an acoustic blues album instead of an exotic coupling of instruments from the East and the West. So is it a good acoustic blues CD? Yes it is. Dougâ€™s vocals on â€œPaydayâ€ opening the disc help to establish a mood that is never allowed to slip. Even a song entitled â€œBhoopali Dance sounds just as much a blues piece as â€œSoul Of A Manâ€. Listening to the disc Slide To Freedom is a reminder that in spite of any and all differences there is always a place where we can all come together in harmony. Epic India - Richard Markus
This twinning of two musical genresâ€”Mississippi Blues and east Indian music-often translates into a fascinating hybrid. â€œSlide To Freedomâ€ on the Northernblues label is an engrossing listen that is concurrently exotic, spiritual, and intriguing. Doug Cox, a multi-faceted instrumentalist and Blues festival organizer, developed an instant rapport with collaborator Salil Bhatt. If that name sounds somewhat familiar, itâ€™s because heâ€™s the son of legendary mohan veena guru V.M Bhatt. Dougâ€™s fascination with the mysterious powers of Salilâ€™s satvik veena--a complicated 20-stringed instrument---accelerated after striking up a friendship at the Vancouver Musicfest in 2005. Cox even re-united the Bhatts with bluegrass legend Jerry Douglas who had recorded with them ten years prior, but his primary goal was to explore the interplay of Mississippi Blues and Indian music. The setting they found was perfect, just southeast of Edmonton they found a simple, open-beamed space adorned by a few Indian rugs on the floor. These cozy, informal confines offered the quietude where an unobtrusive recording journey could ensue. The strains of Indian music bounce at you from a hundred different directions, entrapping you in an intoxicating labyrinth of indescribable tones, tantalizing drones, and elaborately-textured sounds. VM Bhatt guests on two selections, Blind Willie Johnsonâ€™s â€œSoul Of A Manâ€ and â€œFather Kirwanit, where his genius on the mohan veena is evident from note one.. The impact is simply transcendental. You quickly understand why every Western guitarist regards him as an inspiration and the foremost slide player on the planet. His son Salil has the gift too, except his muse is given expression on the 20-stringed satvik veena. â€œArabian Nightâ€œ, â€œFish Pondâ€, and â€œMeeting By The Liverâ€ are just a few of the stunning revelations to be savored. I wish I had space to elaborate on the brilliance of Doug Cox on the resonator guitar and Ramkumar Mishra on the percussive tabla. Needless to say, â€œSlide To Freedomâ€ is a stunning tour de force thatâ€™ll leave you breathless with its overwhelming beauty and complex brilliance. I feel humbled to have had the honor of listening to this oeuvre of pure spirituality. Gary Tate - Jazzreview.com
Doug Cox the Canadian blues dobro & slide master, continues on this album with his fascinating musical collaborations. On this occasion it is with three of Indiaâ€™s finest musicians; Salil Bhatt; on satvik veena and his father the celebrated Vishwa Mohan Bhatt; on mohan veena (Vishwa invented the mohan veena, an adapted guitar specifically designed for playing slide.) and Ramkumar Mishra; on tabla. These musicians together, combine to produce a collection of blues based numbers which are richly hypnotic and also at times rhythmically rooted but, not completely submerged in the culture of Indian music. These diverse pieces may not be the blues as most people understand it to be; but nevertheless the music has the ability to enrich and enrapture you. Is it possible, that the music we are hearing on this album is the blues of India? The eight numbers include Mississippi John Hurtâ€™s â€œPay Dayâ€ and Blind Willie Johnsonâ€™s â€œSoul of a Man,â€ the others are band originals. Doug Coxâ€™s distinctive voice blends well with the soaring slide and the ever present infectious tabla. This musical cross culture mix is certainly on a par with ventures by artists such as Ry Cooder and Taj Mahal. The music on offer here is certainly different but if you are willing to step out of â€˜the blues bubbleâ€™ you could be in for a treat. Remember, â€˜the music may not necessarily be awful, perhaps just different!â€™ Brian Harman.
Doug Cox, who is one of Canadaâ€™s foremost slide guitarists, has teamed up with one of Indiaâ€™s best slide instrumentalists, Salil Bhatt, to create a breathtaking fusion of Blues and Indian music. Slide To Freedom (NorthernBlues) was no hastily thrown together session, as Cox and Bhatt actually have practiced and worked together for over a year before actually recording. The time and care put into this effort is obvious from the beginning. Coxâ€™s specialty is the dobro, a fairly conventional instrument present in many blues recordings, but Bhattâ€™s instrument, the satvik veena, has 20 strings, and will be a new sound to many blues fans. The interplay between Bhatt and Cox is both haunting and beautiful as they give a completely new look to old blues classics like Mississippi John Hurtâ€™s â€œPay Day,â€ and Blind Willie Johnsonâ€™s â€œSoul Of A Man.â€ On the Johnson track, and one additional track, â€œFather Kirwani,â€ Cox and Bhatt are joined by Bhattâ€™s father and mentor, V. H. Bhatt. The elder Bhatt is a Grammy winner, creator of the mohan veena (a 19-stringed instrument), and has appeared on discs by Ry Cooder, Bela Fleck, Jerry Douglas, and Taj Mahal, and is considered to be the cultural ambassador of India. Percussionist Ramkumar Mishra adds strong support on tabla. There are eight tracks on this CD, each highlighting the sparkling interplay between Bhatt & Coxâ€™s instruments. Though most of the songs go into the eight-minute range, each subsequent listen brings out new aspects of each song. According to the liner notes, the musicians sat cross-legged in the middle of the studio, watching each otherâ€™s every move. The close camaraderie formed between the musicians during this project really pays off. The steely sound of the resonator mixed with the reverberation and melody of the veena makes a convincing concoction. I would be the first to admit that I know as much about Indian music as I do about flying the space shuttle. However, after listening to Slide To Freedom over the past few weeks, I can safely say that I want to hear more. Most blues fans should feel the same way. Slide To Freedom is a incredible journey into world music by a group of stellar musicians. Graham Clarke, Blues Bytes
Canadian slide guitar master Doug Cox has collaborated with two of the Far East's most respected and revered musicians, Vishwa Mohan Bhatt and his son Salil, to create "Slide To Freedom." It took more than a year to come to fruition, and is a unique blend of Western blues melded with Eastern "world" music. Doug's slide work is a perfect complement to the Bhatt father and son's intricate playing of the mohan veena, a 19-stringed instrument whose origins date back some 500 years. V. M. and Salil Bhatt are what us Westerners would call direct disciples of Ravi Shankar, as the instrumentation presented here might remind some listeners of Shankar and his sitar from the Sixties. Most of the cuts are instrumental by naure, allowing everyone room to stretch out . The music is quite soothing and relaxing, and at times is almost trance-like. It's perfect for one's "quiet time" listening pleasure. Of the vocals, we enjoyed Doug's traditional, slide-driven tale of the age-old question, "What is the Soul Of A Man?" And, "Beware Of The Man (Who Calls You Bro) has the distinctive sound of pure delta blues. A unique collection from some of the finest slide musicians on the planet, "Slide To Freedom" furthers the reputation of Fred Litwin's Northern Blues label that shows that the blues has no boundaries. Get your copy today!! Until next time...Sheryl and Don Crow. Music City Blues
â€œFile under bluesâ€ it says but that is really only half of the story, Canadian singer and wizard of the Dobro Doug Cox has a firm grounding in the blues but is always looking to explore different directions. This set should certainly fulfil those criteria. Salil Bhatt is the tenth generation of his musical family, the son of Vishwa Mohan Bhatt who invented the Mohan Veena â€“ an adapted â€œguitarâ€ suitable for Indian slide playing â€“ and who is special guest on a couple of numbers here. There are blues numbers here (with Dougâ€™s vocals), but this is mostly a deep, very rootsy sound, very Indian in many places (at least to Western ears) but also a very successful and accessible fusion. If you have enjoyed similar excursions by the likes of Ry Cooder or Taj Mahal, youâ€™ll love this â€“ and if you havenâ€™t, then this is the place to start. Give your ears a treat Norman Darwen - Blues Art Studio
TOM HAWTHORN , Special to The Globe and Mail writes... VICTORIA -- Doug Cox gets a call one day. A travelling musician needs a booker to handle the rest of his tour, as the fellow doing so has decided to go tree-planting. The financial lure of tree-planting is so low as to suggest no great fortune is to be had booking the shows. Despite this, Mr. Cox readily agrees. For weeks, the musician and his new booking agent communicate by telephone and by e-mail. They get along swell, building a friendship that would reach fruition when they finally meet face to face on Vancouver Island. "It was like we'd known each other forever," Mr. Cox said. They could have been brothers, were one not from an ordinary Canadian Prairie family and the other from renowned Hindustani musical lineage. Salil Bhatt holds a master's degree in music. He is an acknowledged musical genius whose father, Vishwa Mohan Bhatt, is a legend in their native India, as well as the winner of a Grammy Award. Doug Cox is a musician from Cumberland on Vancouver Island who produces instructional DVDs when not booking acts as artistic director of Island MusicFest, or touring with Amos Garrett, or playing a local pub with blues guitarist Sam Hurrie. Salil Bhatt plays a satvik veena, a 19-string instrument of his own creation with a pine top and a body crafted from a block of century-old oak. Doug Cox is known as the Canadian ambassador of the Dobro resonator guitar. Salil Bhatt traces his musical heritage through a 500-year family legacy, being only the latest in a half millennium of musical scholars. Doug Cox has three older sisters who liked to listen to records. When the pair finally met, Mr. Cox shyly asked whether he could study music for a week with the Bhatts. Instead, Salil Bhatt suggested they record an album together. Mr. Cox jumped at the chance. They met at a recording studio known as the Hayloft, which is set in an old barn on acreage near Sherwood Park, Alta. For three days last summer, Mr. Cox and father and son Bhatt sat in traditional fashion on the floor, joined by Ramkumar Mishra, a tabla player. Salil Bhatt had his satvik veena on his lap; his father, who had studied with sitar virtuoso Ravi Shankar, had his mohan veena, a hybrid slide guitar of his own invention; and Mr. Cox his Dobro. They wanted to record a live collaboration, so there was little rehearsal and few retakes. "To catch the moment," Mr. Cox said. They played songs written by Blind Willie Johnson and Mississippi John Hurt, men of the South recorded in the 1920s, as well as lengthy instrumentals composed by Mr. Cox and the Bhatts. Think of the Delta Blues set on the Ganges. In less than deft hands, it could be a travesty. A video on YouTube shows the men sitting in a circle as they work the stringed instruments in their laps on a number written by the elder Mr. Bhatt. "That's my favourite one so far," Mr. Cox said. "That's beautiful. What's that one called?" "The name of this is Kirwani," the legendary musician replied. "K . . .," Mr. Cox said, venturing to spell un unfamiliar word. "K-i-r . . ." "K-i-r-w-a-n-i," Mr. Bhatt said. "Beautiful," Mr. Cox repeated. Mr. Cox, 44, is a musician with a reputation as an amiable and trustworthy partner, hence his many projects. Last month, he travelled to Ontario for the Toronto Blues Society's annual guitar workshop before spending a workweek instructing aboriginal musicians at Misty Lake Lodge at Gimli, Man. Next week, he will be in France to start a European tour with Mr. Hurrie, a fellow Cumberland guitarist with whom he recorded Hungry Ghosts, an acclaimed CD of acoustic blues. After performances in Belgium, Germany and Slovakia, it's back home for a quick Vancouver Island tour with Mr. Garrett. That'll be followed by a guitar camp on Bowen Island and another at Knoxville, Tenn. Meanwhile, he's also putting together the lineup for the annual MusicFest. On a recent one-day visit to Victoria, he eagerly anticipated a call from the British singer-songwriter Joan Armatrading. (As it turns out, she will play the July festival, which will include Los Lobos.) Mr. Cox was born in Calgary and grew up there, as well as in Edmonton and Winnipeg, as his father earned promotions from salesman to branch manager for a Canadian manufacturer. The family was not an artistic one, although all three girls spun plenty of vinyl. "One of them was into sixties pop music, Monkees and Nancy Sinatra," Mr. Cox said. "One of them was into George Harrison, Jimi Hendrix and Gordon Lightfoot. The other was more into Carole King and contemporary rock. "I heard a lot of music coming out of those bedrooms." He fooled around on the lone guitar to be found in the household. To make money, he laboured in a music distribution warehouse and put in the hours at a record shop, where he audited a postgraduate degree in popular music. "I listened to everything," he says now. Among his customers was the founder of the Edmonton Folk Festival, where he would work for three years. Mr. Cox moved to Vancouver Island about 25 years ago. He produced 150 concerts in Victoria and hosted an eponymous show on cable access. Sittin' In with Doug Cox lasted 60 episodes, each introducing a musical guest. "We'd sit and jam," he said. He also played in local bands and busked in the Inner Harbour in Victoria. He was known as a bottleneck slide guitarist until the day he caught a performance by Jerry Douglas, the American Dobro player. Mr. Cox went to the music store to buy a new instrument the next morning. In the years since, he has become a well-regarded Dobro player himself, earning the honour of being the first to play the Montreal Jazz Festival. He was also the first Canadian to be invited to perform at the prestigious Dobrofest at Trnava, Slovakia. (The instrument was developed by John Dopyera, who formed a manufacturing company with his brother, giving birth to the name Dobro, which also happens to mean "good" in his native Slovak.) The songs recorded in the Alberta farmhouse have been recently released as Slide to Freedom on the Toronto-based NorthernBlues Music label. Guitar Player Magazine calls the CD a "stunning, groundbreaking marriage of the blues and Indian classical music." It is already earning airplay on local and national CBC radio programs. For Mr. Cox, the three days with the Bhatt father and son were unlike any other recording session. "They pulled me into this place I'd never been before as a musician," he said. "I felt like I was sitting in a cloud."
On this disc, Canadian Doug Cox melds his Mississippi Delta resophonic guitar grooves with the other worldly sounding Mohan Veena (a 19 string guitar like instrument) and Satvik Veena (featuring 20 strings- 3 for the main melody, 5 for drone and 12 sympathetic strings) played by the father and son team of Vishwa Mohan Bhatt and Salil Bhatt. Add Ramkumar Mishra on Tabla (a percussion instrument) and you have a fully realized fusion of East and West. While thereâ€™s nary a boogie, shuffle or blues rock lick to be found, traditional blues fans who relish deft acoustic picking and slides burning up the strings will find plenty to like here. Those who want to ease slowly into the fusion of sounds should first check out the somewhat straight forward takes on Blind Willie Johnsonâ€™s "Soul of a Man", Mississippi John Hurtâ€™s "Pay Day" and Coxâ€™s own, "Beware of the Man (who calls you Bro)" which feature Coxâ€™s soulful vocals and a more prominent place for his resonator licks. While these cuts certainly feature some Eastern sounds they are accents instead of being the primary sonic palette. Those willing to jump straight into the mystical sounds of the East should light the incense, crank up the stereo and get ready for the hypnotic interplay amongst the musicians on the 10 minute plus "Bhoopali Dance" which reveals the many facets of the Satvik Veena by starting with an unhurried delicate trance inducing groove before igniting into a string sizzling, note bending delight. Keeping the Eastern mood intact, "Arabian Night" transports you to a far away desert scene that is as sweltering as the dense heat of the Delta that is at the core of so much of the traditional blues while the quieter, more reflective, "Fish Pond", suggests an easy afternoon with a cane pole. The oddly named Meeting by the Liver conjures up a sinister movie plot made all the more menacing by Coxâ€™s wild attack on his guitar while a modal groove is percolating in the background. Adventuresome blues fans will have something to chew on with this interesting release. Those stuck in the Delta will be wondering who stuck the sound track to the curry joint down the street in their disc player. Mark Smith, WYCE, Michigan
"Slide to Freedom" from Doug Cox & Salil Bhatt, also on the NorthernBlues label, blazes a new blue trail with the fusion of Indian and blues music. This unique new collection combines instrumention of the 19-stringed mohan veena (V.M. Bhatt), tabla (Ramkumar Mishra), the 20-stringed Satvik veena (Salil Bhatt), and blues slide guitar (Doug Cox). The pairing of blues, rock and Indian music has been experimented with many times before, as with the Beatles and Rolling Stones use of Indian instrumentation and tonalities in their music. However, this new collection from Doug Cox & Salil Bhatt is a very unique blend of the sponaneity of the blues and the intricacy of Indian phrasings and tonality. The shared drone tones (also common to Celtic music) serve to deepen the mystical quality inherent in the blues already. The combination is an interesting mix of new world blues for the soul. TRUE BLUE From Ellis Kell
When Ry Cooder recorded with V.M.Bhatt in an old church in California for 1992's A Meeting by the River the two had just met. They basically jammed and created an amazing amalgam of blues, Hawaiian echoes and Indian classical music. Imagine what might have happened had they actually practised. Well, Canadian slide guitarist Doug Cox and V.M.Bhatt's son Salil worked for a year on the material that has just been released as Slide to Freedom and it is a knockout! Ramkumar Mishra adds tabla throughout, and I must say that the tabla is my favourite drum of all the varied percussion instruments in the world. It is a beautifully emotive and responsive thing, that really supports the lacework of classical Indian music. That said, this is an album of slide guitar music. The tabla is just there in the background. The intertwined fretwork of Doug Cox, Salil Bhatt, (and a couple of guest appearances by Vishwa Mohan Bhatt) is what this disc is all about. V.M.Bhatt plays the mohan veena, a slide guitar he designed which has 19 strings and a big body, for lots of sound. Salil Bhatt plays the satvik veena which has 20 strings (3 for melody, 5 for drone and 12 sympathetic strings). While dad's looks like a cross between a Gretsch guitar and a sitar, and Salil's more closely resembles a weissenborn, both are played on the lap. Doug Cox plays a selection of resophonic guitars (from picture on the album digipak one looks like an old National, the other may be a Dobro.) His Web site shows a much greater variety of guitars, including a custom-made weissenborn with wooden back and brass top. It's well worth some time to browse all these Web sites to get a sense of the kinds of instruments that make this music, and it's all played by sliding a metal bar (of some description) up and down the strings of their specific guitars. Slide to Freedom begins with a delightful rendition of Mississippi John Hurt's "Payday." This is one of my favourite songs of all time in its original version. Hurt played a complex, but always gentle, fingerpicking melody and bass line on his guitar, and sang in a natural, lived-in voice, sounding like a neighbour just playing on the porch. I love that about John Hurt! Cox and Bhatt pay tribute to that relaxed essence as Cox kicks off with the fingerpicking base and simulates Hurt's vocal. Then Bhatt comes along with an Indian slant to the melody on the satvik veena. Should it work? The mix seems odd on paper, but it sounds wonderful when listening to it. It definitely works. "Bhoopali Dance" is next, with a much more Indian feel. This one ("Fish Pond" and "Arabian Night" are co-writes between Cox, Bhatt and Mishra) presents a flurry of single notes, back and forth between Doug and Salil. Almost a cutting session, but friendly! Then it establishes a rhythm, the tabla comes in and channels the focus. Sympathetic strings ring behind melody lines far more complicated than one finds in the blues. "Arabian Night" is more of a mood piece, establishing (as you might suspect) an 'Arabian' feel and luring the listener in with single notes, then runs, and then a repeated riff, and solid rhythm from the tabla. Blind Willie Johnson's "Soul of a Man" has been recorded more in the past year than in all the years it has existed. Doug and Salil take it a different way. Doug plays the well-known riff and sings the lyrics while Salil plays with raga-esque precision, illustrating that the soul of a man is the same in every language... mysterious, hidden, even mystical. Vishwa Mohan Bhatt is a guest on this track. He also plays on the slow and introspective "Father Kirwani" (which he composed). The album concludes with a couple of bluesy tunes by Doug Cox. "Beware of the Man (who calls you Bro')" is similar in structure to "Soul of a Man" and "Meeting by the Liver" is a play on the Cooder-Bhatt recording. Both allow plenty of space for inventive slide playing and soulful rhythms. Beautifully recorded by Miles Wilkinson and produced by "everyone involved" Slide to Freedom is an exceptional album of world music, packaged in another gorgeous foldout cardboard digipack designed by A Man Called Wrycraft. Thanks to everyone involved. David Kidney - Green Man Review
DOUG COX & SALIL BHATT/Slide to Freedom: V. H. Bhattâ€™s kid wants to get into the family business too, so like his pop, he teams up with a stellar musician to spread the word. This India/blues fusion works on that Ry Cooder off beat world fusion level and the players are up to the expectations set by the elders previous recordings. These two slide players each bring their special talents to a meeting ground where everything is egalitarian and complimentary. No matter what happened in the face off, the listener comes out a winner. Already primed by NPR with past works in this vein, genre fans are sure to be glad to see the pool expanding. A solid ear opening set that eclectic music fans are sure to love. 39 (Northern Blues) Midwest Record Recap
Not only are the instruments you're hearing on this CD unfamiliar to most, but there's a good chance they've never been played on the same record. We started the segment with Payday, which was written by the blues legend Mississippi John Hurt. Slide To Freedom is worth getting if you like acoustic, blues and classical Indian music. I'm a big fan of all those styles, and i like how energizing and meditative the sound is. Doug Cox is from Vancouver Island and a brilliant dobro player. Salil Bhatt is the son of the acclaimed classical Indian musician Vishwa Mohan Bhatt, who won a Grammy Award with Ry Cooder in 1994 for the album, A Meeting By The River. VM Bhatt is the inventor of the Mohan Veena, a nineteen-string modified guitar. His son plays the Satvik Veena, which is named after his son. It, too, has 19 strings and is made of a 100-year-old oak wood block. And Ramkumar Mishra plays tabla. In July of 2005, Doug invited Salil to perform at the Vancouver Island Music Fest - which he produces. The two clicked and year later Salil suggested they make a record together. Doug says something interesting in the liner notes of the album. He writes that he wanted to find a place where Salil, VM Bhatt and Ramkumar Krishna weren't trying to fit into Western ideas and where he wasn't sounding like he was trying to parrot Indian music. The album was recorded in three days in a barn in Edmonton that had been converted into a recording space! We closed with a lovely instrumental piece called Meeting By The Liver. If you like what you heard this morning, check out these titles: A Meeting By The River, featuring Ry Cooder and VM Bhatt. Saltanah, featuring VM Bhatt and Simon Shaheen. Hindustani Slide Guitar by Debashish Bhattacharya. Errol Nazerath - CBC METRO Morning - Toronto