NorthernBlues Music

Slide to Freedom - Reviews


Slide to Freedom


"When roots guitarist Cox sat on the floor mats of a studio barn in British Columbia to perform with three Indian classical musicians - Salil Bhatt, on satvik veena (a 20-string instrument, played with a metal bar); Salil's father, V.M. Mohan, master of the 19-string mohan veena (on two songs); and tabla player Ramkumar Mishra - he engaged in an act of liberation from the conventions of the blues. The Canadian lost himself in the details and developments of his lines and in the overlaps and intersections with the the others' virtuosic patterns. Five non-categorizable instrumentals, each inventive and thrilling, make the Cox blues Beware of the Man and curry-spiced treatments of two old country blues numbers (Cox sings these three) sound like pleasant nothings."

- Frank John Hadley
November, 2007 


"Conceived after a year of collaboration, here is an enlightening fusion of Indian classical and slide guitar blues rendered with an unorthodox palette of resophonic guitar, tabla and veena. The latter, a 20 string variation on the sitar created over 20 years ago by Ravi Shankar disciple Vishwa Mohan Bhatt guesting on this album. Although primarily a Dobro player, Doug Cox’s weathered vocals and steely resophonic add some vintage authenticity to the blues infusion, but the balance is tipped in favour of entrancing ragas and soulful, lyrical instrumentals. McLaughlin and Shakti admirers take note; Doug Cox has struck a remarkable and spiritual three-way conversation.4****"

- Peter Wockner
Jazz and Beyond, Australia
July, 2007 


"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... If only you had lived during Ralph J. Gleason's days at Rolling Stone, you would understand.

"Even if you didn't, understand this. When Doug Cox, Salil Bhatt, Ramkumar Mishra and Vishwa Mohan Bhatt created Slide to Freedom, they created a blend of Mississippi blues and Indian music which transcends genre because sometimes, just sometimes, music is everything. From the beautiful slide work kicking off Mississippi John Hurt's Pay Day to the communal laughs and chatter at the conclusion of the jam Meeting By the Liver you hear it. These sessions were special.

"Pay Day is the perfect opener. Doug Cox has a voice not unlike those born in the Delta, slightly rough and wavering yet in tune with the music. Interplay between Cox's resonator guitar and Bhatt's Satvik Veena is simple but magic. There could hardly be a better introduction to the acoustic blues. Blind Willie Johnson's Soul of a Man and Cox's Beware of the Man (Who Calls You Bro) step a bit further into the intricacies of the acoustic blues without overstepping the bounds. Beware, with its choogling rhythm and classic R&B feel, even creeps toward the edge of rock (just plug the instruments in and you're there).

"The inclusion of Vishwa Mohan Bhatt's Father Kirwani is the one purely Indian-influenced piece. Driven by Mishra's masterful and rhythmic tabla, both veenas and resonator feed off of one another, theme and variation planted one after the other. It is good enough to make George Harrison turn his head, were he still among us.

"Bhoopali Dance, Arabian Night and Fish Pond take elements of both styles and create a smooth flowing and, at times, almost meditative amalgamation—not blues and not Indian. The veena, sounding like a cross between a sitar and an acoustic guitar, gives each an other-worldly feel.

"The real treasure, though, is the ending jam, titled Meeting By the Liver. With laid back, rhythmic groove courtesy of Mishra, Cox and Salil Bhatt do battle sixties-style, first one and then the other either laying the groundwork or cranking out leads. Throw in a light show and you're back at the Fillmore for close to nine minutes of a mind-boggling jam that would have had Cream shaking their collective heads. By the end, you will more than likely join in the spontaneous laughter of the musicians who must have known at that moment how truly magical those few minutes were. It just goes to show you that sometimes you just don't need a stack of Marshalls to make your point.

"When they said this was produced "by everyone", they weren't kidding. Profusive thanks are given to Miles Wilkinson, who recorded, mixed and mastered it; A Man Called Wycraft (Michael Wycraft) who put together a quite impressive four page digipak folder; and Fred Litwin, whose pictures grace the package.

"Doug Cox himself said it in the liner notes: "It wasn't a normal session. It was the highlight of my musical days to take part in such a collaboration of free music with such giving musicians." The music on this disc says those aren't just words. They are testament."

- Frank Gutch Jr.
Folk and Acoustic Music Exchange
© Peterborough Folk Music Society
July 2007