Doug Cox and Salil Bhatt
Slide to Freedom 2: Make A Better World (Northern Blues, 2009)
Slide to Freedom 2: Make A Better World brings together two guitar masters to create an enthralling fusion of Mississippi Delta blues and Indian Carnatic music. The musicians behind the project are Canadian bottleneck slide guitar and dobro master Doug Cox and Indian virtuoso Salil Bhatt, who plays a hybrid instrument that combines the veena and an arch-top guitar, known as satvik veena. The interplay between the two musicians and their different styles of slide guitar ranges from laid pieces to fiery jams, using what Cox calls an “intuitive, instinctual approach”.
The musicians met when Cox, fascinated by the Indian slide, made contact with Salil online right before Salil was heading to Canada for a tour. The tour ran into problems and Cox arranged some concerts for Salil, his father Vishwa Mohan Bhatt, and tabla player Ramkumar Mishra. Cox asked the renowned Indian musicians if he could spend a week studying with them. The Bhatts suggested that they make an album together.
As they played collectively, Cox realized that his usual bottleneck slide guitar was not the best fit what Salil and the other musicians were playing. Cox picked up his gadgie, a rare type of metal-bodied resophonic guitar created by an eccentric instrument builder in Northern England. The gadgie blended perfectly with the veenas. “I get the feeling that most people can’t tell exactly who’s doing what, and that’s a good thing,” Cox notes. The musicians were joined by vocalist John Boutte and bassist Dinah D.
“There were times when we were showing each other phrases, and it was surprisingly hard. They were very, very patient in showing me the ragas and all their amazing subtleties. I always thought they were about microtones, but they’re about a lot more,” Cox recalls. “Once, I remember, after two hours I got the line they were teaching me, and I was trying to show them a blues lick, a three-note phrase but with blues timing. It was about playing behind the beat and where you placed the phrase. The difference in rhythmic perspective was fascinating and challenging.”
Slide to Freedom 2, Make a Better World combines the passion and vitality of the blues and Indian ragas.
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