BettySoo and Doug Cox might seem an unlikely pair. One hails from the cadre of songwriters living in Austin, Texas, the other from the paradisiacal reaches of Vancouver Island, British Columbia. In just two years’ time, the duo has performed in nine countries in every kind of venue – from festival main-stages to Tuscan open air cafés, and in every place, they‘ve met with enthusiastic reviews from the most discriminating and respected ears in folk and roots music today. With two voices, a guitar and a Dobro, Across the Borderline gathers different places and sounds: low and high, north and south, hope and heartbreak.
This is Cox's fourth CD as a leader in ten years. It's an impressive, eclectic showcase of the musician's gifts as a songwriter, arranger, bandleader, and soulfully succinct soloist on dobro and slide guitar.
The Boston Globe has called him "one of the world's most expressive dobro players," and Stay Lazy demonstrates why Cox is held in such high regard by critics and his fellow musicians.
He's toured and recorded with Amos Garrett, Long John Baldry, Ellen McIlwaine, Ken Hamm, Rick Fines and Dave Gogo, and most of them perform with Cox on Stay Lazy.
On Stay Lazy, Cox teams-up with Amos Garrett for a playfully juicy reading of Life Is So Peculiar, leads an all-star bluegrass group through a withering version of Ellington's Caravan, and belts-out his originals, Cold When I'm Dead and When The Answer Comes with an expressive Bob Dylan-like growl. He joins Clive Gregson and jazz bassist James Young on a stunningly beautiful rendition of George Harrison's While My Guitar Gently Weeps and uncorks gentle, dobro-sweetened rearrangements of Neil Young's After The Gold Rush and Stevie Ray Vaughan's Lenny. Cox, Rick Fines, and Ron Casat team-up to give the reggae classic, Johnny Too Bad a clever, countrified reshaping, and his joyous vocal inspires Ellen McIlwaine's roaring slide guitar showcase, I Like To Slide. Wake Up Lisa/Mary Greig is an amazing, original folk instrumental that sounds as old as the hills, while his arrangement of Black Eyed Susie gives that dusty traditional tune a sprightly west African rhythmic underpinning. Cox also offers a soul-revealing vocal reading of his original, My Father and a funnier, but no less honestly autobiographical gem called My First Bike. Stay Lazy also includes Cox's bluegrass-inspired arrangement of Fanfarinette that serves as a theme song for CBC Radio's Discdrive, and the musician's mesmerizing environmental plea, Listen To The Water. It's already a favorite on several radio programs.
Stay Lazy is a stunning collection of thoughtful songwriting, virtuoso playing, and brilliant arranging. Although it is essentially a compilation, the CD has an exquisitely sequenced flow that mirrors the care and craft evident in each of Cox's elegant dobro and slide guitar solos. Grammy Awards for the O' Brother Where Art Thou Soundtrack and the Foggy Bottom Boys' Man of Constant Sorrow have introduced the general public to the dobro's haunting, expressive sound.
They're going to love the magic Doug Cox conjures-up on Stay Lazy.
This is brilliant! Can you imagine a fusion of country-blues with Indian classical music? There are times when it's hard to tell which musician is playing, so close and sincerely imitative are their individual contributions. 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 a 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...
This musical cross culture mix is certainly on a par with ventures by artists such as Ry Cooder and Taj Mahal.
Juno Nominated (World Music Album of the Year)
Review: Slide to Freedom II By Doug Cox and Salil Bhatt (Northern Blues Music) Review by Douglas Heselgrave
Cross cultural conversations in music are nothing new, and the novelty that once accompanied the release of albums like Paul Simon’s Graceland has long since faded away. The world is getting much smaller and almost every week one can find new and unlikely collaborations between artists as different from one another as a New York DJ and a group of Tuvan throat singers. The variety of new world music recordings available is staggering, and whether one likes Persian jazz fusion or Senegalese hip hop, there is something to fit almost every taste. With so many potentially interesting collaborations vying for music fans’ attention, it would be easy for a gem like Slide to Freedom II to get lost in the commotion. That would be a shame as it’s an album that succeeds completely on its own musical terms. Unpretentious, loose and fun, Slide to Freedom II is the second album from Doug Cox, Vishwa and Salil Bhatt.
Vishwa Bhatt is one of sitarist Ravi Shankar’s most senior disciples and has long been considered amongst the world’s greatest Veena (nineteen stringed resonating slide) players. No stranger to cross cultural musical explorations, Bhatt collaborated with Ry Cooder in 1993 to produce Meeting by the River, a wonderful album of instrumental music that explored the common ground shared by western and Asian string traditions. Slide to Freedom II – like its predecessor – captures a joyful and spontaneous conversation with the blues filtered through Indian raga progressions.
The three first met when Vishwa Bhatt and his son, Salil – a veena master in his own right – were touring in Canada several years ago. Doug Cox has long been a veteran of the Canadian blues scene, having recorded several albums of traditional and original music over the years, while nurturing a passion for world music that was just waiting to come to fruition. When he first heard the senior Bhatt’s music, he recognized a kindred soul and began to communicate with him online about the varieties of slide music. When the Bhatts arrived in Canada to play a series of concerts, they contacted Cox who promptly asked to study with them. Vishwa refused this request, and instead suggested that they record an album together while they were on tour.
When the musicians first sat down together, Cox brought along his slide guitar, but the tonal qualities didn’t complement the Indian instruments, so he switched to a Gadgie – a resonating hollow bodied guitar made in England – and the sounds gelled to such an extent that it’s often difficult to distinguish between what where Cox’s guitar ends and the Bhatts’ veenas begin. This synthesis of tone creates a seductive flow to the performances as guitar and veenas effortlessly weave and dance around each other.
In addition to featuring delta inspired raga improvisations, Slide to Freedom I included versions of blues standards such as John Hurt’s Payday and Blind Willie Johnson’s Soul of a Man sung by Doug Cox. For the second album, Cox and Bhatt decided to bring John Boutte, a New Orleans gospel tenor on board to handle vocal duties. This was an inspired choice. Boutte is a sensitive and emotive singer whose contributions to Make a better world, I scare myself and Amazing Grace raise the proceedings to a much higher level. For some people, the trio’s off the cuff recreation of George Harrison’s For You Blue, replete with psychedelic veena solos will provide reason enough to buy this album.
Even though traditional tunes on a collaboration like this offer a familiar place to begin listening from, the instrumental pieces are by far the most interesting cuts on the disc. Freed from conventional song structures, tracks like The Moods of Madhuvanti – a stellar ten minute blues raga – and the aching and wistful Blessings make this an essential addition to anyone’s music collection.
While it might be interesting to undertake a musicological excavation of the compositions on this album and deconstruct every phrase and find references to everything from twelve bar blues figures to Indonesian gamelan forms, it’s really beside the point. It doesn’t matter how much musical background a person has – Slide to Freedom II takes listeners on an exhilarating musical journey from beginning to end. Like a vintage guitar, this record improves with age and sounds better every time it’s played.
Anela and Doug played together as the Pacific Poi Boys and started to work on an album together.
Here's a little sampling from then.
Sailing - (the Christopher Cross song, played on Dobro and Guitar)
The One They Call Hawaii - (A Song Anela contributed to the duo from his original home Island)
Dance With Me - (The song Orleans had a hit with back in the 70's done up for two guitars!)
Two great voices, a guitar, and a dobro is all it takes for Bettysoo and Doug Cox to knock it out of the park with their latest CD, Across The Borderline: Lie To Me. Bettysoo’s voice is strong, feminine, and mesmerizing, and Doug Cox’ guitar riffs are a perfect complement, soulful, tight, and clear. The CD a set of well chosen covers that highlight the duo’s strengths and range from old-school Doug Sahm to more modern fare like Jane Siberry. Highlights for me are “Lie To Me,” and “Boxcars.”
"On July 24, 2007, I sat quietly, a spider on the wall, while Doug Cox and Sam Hurrie cut an album in a day. Not just an album, but one of the best and tightest and purest records in even their illustrious careers." Two Veteran bluesmen who've been friends so long, telepathy is effortless by now - playing in a spot so beautiful and acoustically rich it reinspires them with what Buddhists call Beginners Mind. The real deal on strings of steel." Spider Robinson
“A dream roots recording, one of the best of the year. Two veteran acoustic guitarists who specialize in resonators achieve an all but perfect two-hander on this fascinating collaboration. It's a set of 10 organic, folk- and blues-based instrumentals and whimsical, spiritual songs mixed with a handful of traditional pieces and one cover (the Jagger-Richards ballad "No Expectations"), elegantly picked and delicately strummed on a variety of acoustic axes and embellished sparingly with electric slide guitar, bass and simple percussion. A masterpiece of sympathetic understatement and relaxed self-assurance, Hungry Ghosts is outstanding for its full range of tonal colour and texture and for its complete lack of pretense.”
Named one of the top CDs of the year by Acoustic Guitar and Downbeat magazine, the music is akin to some of the instrumental, folk-jazz hybrid that Windham Hill records became famous for, only with a bit more edge. An exceptionally high amount of 6-string virtuosity is evident from Cox and Butler.