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Doug Cox & Salil Bhatt - Slide to Freedom 2 (Make a Better World)

Northern Blues Records

Quality: Recommended

Style: Eclectic, World Music

Slide to Freedom 2 (Make a Better World) follows Doug Cox and Salil Bhatt’s acclaimed debut on Northern Blues from 2007. This CD continues to explore the intersections of acoustic blues and East Indian music; for fans of world music, Slide to Freedom 2 (Make a Better World) offers up many contemplative jams that feature Doug Cox on the National Resophonic Lap-style guitar, Salil Bhatt on the Satvik Veena, and Salil’s father, Vishwa Mohan Bhatt, on the Mohan Veena. The rhythm section features Dinah D on bass and Ramkumar Mishra on tabla and percussion, and John Boutte, an award-winning Crescent City vocalist, rounds out this exceptional and diverse ensemble. I first discovered the Mohan Veena, a 20-stringed guitar, on CDs from Northern Blues’ alumnus Harry Manx, and it offers a sound distinct from any other stringed instrument I’ve ever heard, and I’m pleased it’s featured on Doug and Salil’s new CD.

Doug Cox has been recognized as one of the world’s premier slide guitar players, and when not at home in Canada, you can find him either on the road, or on the faculty of guitar workshops at such notable festivals like Kerrville, Vancouver Island, The Cotswolds, or the Aboriginal Performers Camp. His new is a gateway to an array of instructional DVDs, and his DVDs are distributed by Mel Bay Publications.

Salil’s father, Vishwa Mohan Bhatt, invented the Mohan Veena, and sits in on an inspired, folksy cover of George Harrison’s "For You Blue." In addition to a traditional reading of "Amazing Grace" with John Boutte’s soulful vocals, Doug and Salil re-imagine Dan Hicks’ "I Scare Myself" nicely. The elder Bhatt paired with Ry Cooder in 1994 for their Grammy-winning A Meeting by the River in the World Music category, and Salil is following in his father’s footsteps.

I particularly liked the longer instrumental tracks on Slide to Freedom 2 (Make a Better World), including the 10+ minutes of "The Moods of Madhuvanti" or "Blessings" (which clocks in at just over eight minutes). I enjoyed the extended interplay between Doug and Salil, but also how they include Ramkumar Mishra on tabla and percussion, and Dinah D on bass, too. The set closes with some pretty bluesy vocals from John Boutte on "Freedom Raga," and after just one listen, I understand why he’s been honored with Best Male Vocalist awards in 2008 and 2009 from OffBEAT magazine’s Best of the Beat Awards in New Orleans.

Slide to Freedom 2 (Make a Better World) is not a traditional blues record, by any means. The CD is, however, mixes musical traditions of the Mississippi Delta and the Ganges Delta, and in the hands of master musicians like Doug Cox and Salil Bhatt, this cross-cultural experience is a music trip well worth taking.

Reviewer Eric Steiner is the President of the Washington Blues Society, a proud recipient of a Keeping the Blues Alive Award from the Blues Foundation. Please contact Eric at  or visit for more information on the Washington Blues Society

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