Slide to Freedom
Slide to Freedom is an intriguing but ultimately only partially successful collaboration between Canadian dobro and slide guitar specialist Doug Cox and a pair of classical Indian musicians, Salil Bhatt and Ramkumar Mishra. Bhatt plays the 19-stringed drone instrument, the mohan veena, a modern instrument invented by his father, Vishwa Mohan Bhatt, who has recorded similar albums with Ry Cooder and Taj Mahal (the elder Bhatt guests on two tracks here, "The Soul of a Man" and "Father Kirwani"). Mishra's tabla provides the connective rhythm for the soloists, although the more natural and comfortable-sounding musical relationship between the tabla and the mohan veena sometimes makes Cox sound out of place on his own album. The connection between Cox and Bhatt's instruments is that both are played with slides, and at the album's best, as on the meditative, slowly unfolding "Bhoopaldi Dance," the instruments' similar timbres coalesce into an ever-shifting blend of drones and blue-note melodies strongly reminiscent of John Fahey's most explorative work. But the album is bracketed by a pair of bluesy vocal tunes by Cox, "Pay Day" and "Beware of the Man (Who Calls You Bro)," that sound unconvincing and completely out of place in this context.