The album Slide to Freedom II is being hailed as eclectic mix of blues, Indian music with a touch of bluesgrass. The two principal players are Doug Cox.Â He is a Canadian steeped in the various blues styles of the American South. He is deeply into playing the bottleneck blues on the Dobro. Salil Bhatt is from India and his family tree includes his father, Grammy Award Winner Vishwa Mohan Bhatt, who studied under the great Ravi Shankar
John Boutte adds his soulful voice to several of the songs. Of course, he needs know introduction here.
Slide to Freedom II is a collaboration that goes far beyond the obvious â€œIndian meets blues.â€ Itâ€™s an improvised road trip across the terra incognita of the planetâ€™s slide instruments. â€œPeople often think of slide instruments like the dobro as hokey American folk instruments, the kind of thing you play while sitting on a haybale,â€ Cox smiles, â€œbut slide developed all over the world, from the United States to India and China, though it has a North American reputation. If you look at most folk music, there usually is some kind of slide involved.â€
India may in fact rival North America in its devotion to and creative license with lap-style slide instruments. Salil Bhatt hails from a long line of sitar and veena masters and innovators, most notably his father and fellow collaborator on Slide to Freedom II, Vishwa Mohan Bhatt, one of Ravi Shankarâ€™s oldest sitar disciples and an old buddy of George Harrison. The late Beatle is honored on â€œFor You Blue,â€ where Vishwa takes a wild and eerie solo.
At the suggestion of NorthernBlues’ label head Fred Litwin, Cox decided they should tackle gospel standard, â€œAmazing Grace,â€ though he hesitated at first. That is, until BouttÃ© began to tell the story behind the hymn, how it was written by 18th-century British slave trader John Newton, whose religious revelation caused him to demand humane treatment of his human cargo and eventually condemn human trafficking. BouttÃ©â€™s words proved revelatory for Salil and Vishwa: â€œThey had never heard an African-American talking about the experience of slavery,â€ Cox muses. â€œWe were all so moved that when we sat down to record the track, it became this otherworldly music. They just got it.â€