Slide To Freedom 2 (Make A Better World) is the follow-up to the first release by Doug Cox and Salil Bhatt. Bhatt is master of the Indian satvik veena, which is that country’s national instrument. Its delicate and swirling tonal structure is quite different from that captured by Western instruments. Meanwhile, Doug Cox relies on various resophonic lap-style guitars and this fusion creates a sort of East-West interplay that is fascinating to say the least.
The blend is multi-layered and yields a sound that is so full that one has to remind oneself that only two stringed instruments are being played. Only the best players in the world can marry these polar opposite traditions in ways that complement the other, but this masterful collaboration goes even further by taking us to an alternate universe where the unimaginable becomes the possible.
In many respects, this effort is even more impressive than its predecessor. Several tracks are vocals and John Bouttenot was a wise choice. He’s a New Orleans soul singer who can also handle down-home blues. He probably suggested "Make A Better World," an Earl King song. It's joyful and uplifting and serves as the perfrect introduction to the multitude of delights that follow. "A Letter Home" shifts the geography across the ocean to the bazaars of New Delhi, where the sounds of the satvik veena mingle with scents from hundreds of spices. The flights of imagination are spontaneous, yet cerebral, calming, yet intense and quite mind-expanding in their sublime feel.
‘I Scare Myself" is another fascinating number and this classic was written by roots legend Dan Hicks (of the Hot Licks). That version, as I recall, had a shimmering distinctive Brazilian vibe, but here it’s transformed into a delicate tapestry of oriental exotica that translates into magnificent opus with a revelatory interpretation. Bhalit, Cox and Boutte take everything to a higher and higher level. "Blessings" is weird, mystical and consciousness raising and its throbbing energy is liable to take you to nirvana which is a belief in the emancipation of the soul, hence ecstasy. There’s a version of "Amazing Grace" that is simply amazing. Some other highlights include George Harrison’s "For You Blues," in which the esteemed father Vishwa Mohan Bhatt makes a guest appearance playing the mohan veena. "Moods Of Mohanvanti" is another elaborate mind-expanding instrumental that sounds like a thousand years of history went into its conception.
Slide To Freedom 2 (Make A Better World) more than lives up to its title. In a world spinning out of control, this is one place where everything makes pure sense.