Doug Cox & Salil Bhatt- Slide to Freedom 2: Make a Better World The initial collaboration between slide guitarist Cox and stavik veena master Bhatt was one of my favourite albums of the previous decade. It slapped me upside the head with its blending of sounds and genres. I missed out on this one- for some reason I wasn’t serviced with it- and I never bothered buying it, figuring I’d find it used somewhere, someday. But I didn’t.

With my weekly watching of Treme, I’ve been intrigued by the theme song and one morning this week recognized the singer’s voice when I heard a version of “City of New Orleans” played on CKUA- John Boutté. A Google search confirmed his connection to Treme and continued investigation brought up not only an album I downloaded from eMusic, but Boutte’s involvement with this collection. Yes, Vancouver Island meets up with India and New Orleans!

I recalled considering  Slide to Freedom 2 on a previous visit to the downtown Calgary, so while there this weekend I searched it out. Not as immediately arresting as the first volume, but that has more to do with the lack of surprise this one holds. The addition of Boutté’s voice to the proceedings provides another interesting element. By the time they work out on “Freedom Raga,” I’m in another world.

Their rendition of “Amazing Grace”- Boutté’s soulful voice working with the unusual (in a gospel/soul context) sounds of the veena, brings down the house. (More about my strange affinity for gospel music later.) It is on the longer tracks when the music is most trance-inducing that the power of the Cox-Bhatt collaboration is most apparent.

DOUG COX AND SALIL BHATT 

Slide to Freedom 2: 

Make a Better World 

NorthernBlues 0053 

T 

he slide has made some intriguing in- 

roads in global music. King Sunny Ade 

redefined Nigerian music by creating Juju, 

partly inspired by the Hawaiian style of 

playing. Chinese folk artists run slides 

over whatever strings they can think of, 

and Indian musicians have invented some 

of the most intriguing instruments on the 

planet. Salil Bhatt's veena-meets-arch- 

top-guitar is no exception. The cross be- 

tween the resonant delicacies of a sitar 

with a bluesy edge and Canada's Doug 

Cox's gadgie works beautifully. The first 

edition of Slide to Freedom was a treat. 

With their latest, the duo's relationship has 

deepened, and so has the music. John 

Boutte's vocal contributions add lyrical 

strength to the otherwise instrumental al- 

bum, especially on the Gospel-influenced 

"Make a Better World" - Gospel referring 

more to the lyric's intention than to a spe- 

cific style of song. For that, think blues. 

The addition of bass player Dinah D to this 

album roots the songs nicely. Tabla player 

Ramkumar Mishra slides his two-drum set 

gorgeously, especially when given room to 

wander, as with "A Letter Home" and 

"Blessings." The duo takes on the classic 

"Amazing Grace," reminding one of Ben 

Harper's slide-fueled tendencies meeting 

the Blind Boys of Alabama's Gospel - 

Dinah D joins forces with Michael 

Wrycraft for harmony vocals. More than 

anything, the listener can literally hear the 

fun these musicians must have had while 

creating this inspired album. This series 

is one we certainly hope continues. - DB