NorthernBlues Music

Slide to Freedom 2 - Reviews


Slide to Freedom 2


"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, Vishwan and Salil Bhatt...

"...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."

- Douglas Heselgrave
No Depression
August, 2009 


"To paraphrase Kathleen Whitney Barr, 'I know blues music when I hear it'. Given my track record for reviews, I may be labeled a blues purist. Slide to Freedom 2 is not a blues disk. Slide to Freedom 2 IS wildly ambitious and inspirational world music project blending elements of blues, pop, traditional Indian instrument and gospel...

"...Northern Blues deserves credit and respect for releasing this disk and Doug Cox & Salil Bhatt deserve all of the professional credits and awards they are bound to receive. This disk and project is something special, hopefully Fred Litwin & Company receive the appropriate financial incentive to release a Slide to Freedom 3."

- Georgetown Fats
The Boston Blues Society
August, 2009 


"Blues and Middle Eastern music are not often thought to go stylistically hand in hand. However, on the second release by slide guitarist Doug Cox and satvik veena-player Salili Bhatt, 2009's Slide to Freedom 2: Make a Better World, both musical worlds do indeed coexist, and surprisingly, can do so quite cohesively. But for the most part, it's the Middle Eastern musical style that overshadows the blues here, especially on such tunes as A Letter Home and Blessings. However, on such ditties as the album-opening Make a Better World, as well as a cover of Amazing Grace, both aforementioned styles are detected, with the blues/soul being provided primarily by singer John Boutté. For fans of world music with a modern-day twist, Slide to Freedom 2: Make a Better World is certainly worth some close inspection."

- Greg Prato
Allmusic Guide
July, 2009 


"This is quite the striking album. Doug Cox plays Resophonic Lap-styled slide guitar while Salil Bhatt plays slide on his lap with the Satvik Veena. A sequel to their 2007 endeavor, Slide to Freedom 2 continues the marriage of the blues with traditional classical Indian music and takes it even one step further. New Orleans vocalist John Boutte adds his soulful warmth and charm with vibrant vocals to contrast the unique sliding sounds of lap played stringed instruments...this album is a must to buy!"

- Steve Jones
Crossroads Blues Society, Illinois
June, 2009 


"My friend Vito books concerts for a munipality. Part of his job is to hire vendors who sell hot dogs and fried dough at musical events in the Northeast. When Vito came up with a lemon-sherbet-with-chocolate-sauce combination for an ice cream vendor, the vendor thought he was nuts - until it became the biggest seller on the grounds.

"Doug Cox and Salil Bhatt could become the blues world's lemon sherbet and chocolate sauce. Canadian dobro player Cox teams up with Indian raga master Bhatt, backed by seventh-generation New Orleans Creole singer John Voutte on five of the eight numbers on Slide to Freedom 2. Together they create a sound that's less startling on record than it sounds in print, 44 years after the Stones and the Beatles teamed with Ravi Shankar.

"The potential stumbling block is that classical Indian traditions are so rigid that it took Salil Bhatt 20 years to master the Mohan Veena, an instrument his father created. Most Indian instrumentalists die of old age thinking they have yet to master their multi-stringed instruments. Many Creole singers, on the other hand, can be so emotionally over-the-top they can be almost impossible for a band to follow. For You Blue on Slide to Freedom is the most jarring example of a potential big-bang fission bomb on the album. But the explosion never happens, instead, the mantra-like hypnotic effect of Indian strings supports the vocals and makes you forget you've heard Amazing Grace almost as many times as Mustang Sally.

"The white-hot, razor-cut, hyper-focus of Indian strings combined with the drone effect is very bluesy. Think of Jimmy Reed's vocals: His alcohol-drenched, cut-glass voice is at the same time soothing. With Reed as with Slide to Freedom 2, the yin and yang collide, but the black and white never become grey. It helps that the musicians have impressive credentials that overcome any awkwardness that might make the chocolate sauce fight the sherbet. Cox worked with the late, great Long John Baldry and has educational creds an arm long. Salil Bhatt is the son of India's Grammy Award winner Vishwa Mohan Bhatt. And John Boutte is the 2009 offBEAT Best of the Beat Award winner for Best Male Vocalist and Best Traditional Jazz Album."

- Don Wilcock
Blues Revue
August/September 2009 


"In 2007, Doug Cox and Salil Bhatt collaborated on the first volume of Slide To Freedom for the Northern Blues label, and it was quite well-received. These fellows have combined their considerable chops for a follow-up, Slide To Freedom 2: Make A Better World, which picks up right where the last one concluded.

"Doug Cox is one of Canada's most revered slide guitarists, known for his recorded works, festival appearances, and instructional workshops. Salil Bhatt is a renowned 'world music' player whose father, the legendary V. M. Bhatt, mentored Eric Clapton and George Harrison back in the Seventies. Salil is proficient on many Far Eastern instruments, especially so on the nineteen-stringed mohan veena, which us Westerners might compare to the sitar. Their first effort was a brilliant fusion of their talents, but we found this one to be superior. On this set, the gentlemen are joined by a soulful, up-and-coming jazz singer from New Orleans, John Boutte. His vocals give this one that little 'something extra' to complement the surrounding string work.

"Boutte kicks things off Crescent-City-style with the leadoff title cut, the Earl King composition that fits in perfectly with his heritage. It's also brimming with solid runs from both Doug and Salil on their respective instruments, giving this one a definitive 'world' flavor.

There are several outstanding instrumentals as well, such as The Moods Of Madhuvanti, and A Letter Home, where the fellows get into some serious interplay, seemingly able to feed off each other's creative energy.

We had two favorites, too, both of which featured John's vocals. Perhaps the most 'straight blues' cut is a sweet (albeit too short for us!) slide-drenched version of George Harrison's For You Blue. The other is Amazing Grace, with the subdued lead work of the strings behind John's vocals completing a sweet sound, for sure.

Doug Cox and Salil Bhatt are two singularly different musical individuals, altho when their talents are combined, the results are astonishing. On Slide To Freedom 2: Make A Better World, the whole is indeed greater than the sum of the parts!! "

- Sheryl and Don Crow
Music City Blues
June, 2009 


"A couple of cats with a great sound to match their great resumes get back together for another round of showing what they can do with their strings, their minds and a few pals that want to help them bring out the best. A tasty world beat session that will reshape your visions of the kind of world beat that can come from Canada, these two tear it up and take you to places you’ve only heard in dreams, but wouldn’t mind revisiting. Hot stuff."

- Midwest Record Recap
May 5, 2009 


"The followup to 2007's Slide to Freedom finds Vancouver Island guitarist Doug Cox, one of the modern-day slide greats, matched evenly by Salil Bhatt, a master of the 20-string Satvik Veena. Cox, Bhatt and tabla player Ramkumar Mishra are joined here by a ridiculously rich group of friends (including Grammy winner Vishwa Mohan Bhatt, Salil's father) for an exercise in expert, heartfelt playing that nearly defies description.

"Throw in a red-hot singer from Louisiana (the incomparable John Boutte), a standup bassist from Gabriola Island (Dinah D of the Kerplunks) and a cover of Liverpudlian descent (For You Blue by the Beatles) and you've got bluesy world music gold. Rating 4 out of 5"

- Mike Devlin
Victoria Times Colonist
April, 2009