This twinning of two musical genres-Mississippi Blues and east Indian music-often translates into a fascinating hybrid. "Slide To Freedom" 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, it’s because he’s the son of legendary mohan veena guru V.M Bhatt.
Doug’s fascination with the mysterious powers of Salil’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 Johnson’s "Soul Of A Man" and "Father 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. "Arabian Night", "Fish Pond", and "Meeting By The Liver" 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, "Slide To Freedom" is a stunning tour de force that’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.