- Melody / Hooks
A Different Blues
Indian master musicians Chitravina N. Ravikiran and Vishwa Mohan Bhat join veteran blues ambassador and genre ‘mixologist’ Taj Mahal for an exciting fusion of Indian instrumentation and the Blues idiom.
Mumtaz Mahal’s Indian flavoured blues begins with a loose incantation before a mysterious descending melody appears - “Mandinka”. Joined progressively by bending, buzzing, sliding and droning at different melodic intervals and pitches, a series of subtly unique refrains, refreshing and seductively hypnotic, develop, before chiming harmonically to a resonant close. It is an intoxicating beginning to the album with African, Indian and Blues flavours
“In my Kitchen”
The familiar blues terrain of Robert Johnson’s “In My Kitchen” meets the incandescent sounds of Indian instrumentation with a passion suddenly unleashed. It is incredibly refreshing to hear the traditional musical topology of the blues so subtly and intoxicatingly reanimated by three men playing, picking and sliding 47 strings.
The Mohan Veena is a highly modified concord archtop, which Bhatt invented and plays lap-style. It has 20 strings: three melody strings, five drone and twelve sympathetic strings. Ravikiran plays the Chitra Vina – it is in essence a 21-stringed, fretless lute.
This exotic instrumentation breathes new emotion and colour into the form of the blues yet this record has received some unfavorable reviews – there are moments of brilliance: this record is reminiscent of Van Morrison’s ” landmark album Astral Weeks” – an impressionistic exploration, with a hidden depth and detail.
Mary Don’t You Weep
The instrumental Rolling on the Sea feels almost an ancient sea shanty with it’s simple melody but becomes a lament tinged with a sweet melancholy and the tremulous vocal nature of the instruments brings a very human and fluid frailty to the piece.
It would be hard not to be moved by the trio’s Negro spiritual / slave song “Mary Don’t You Weep” as Mahal, Ravikiran and Bhat give a performance rich with bitter-sweet triumph. The standards “Stand by Me” and “Johnny Too Bad” are delivered with refreshing and unexpected changes of pace and plenty of airspace.
The Verdict – Good, bad or just ugly?
WaterLily Acoustics’ pristine production is second to none capturing an impassioned and thoroughly genuine and unpretentious performance. This is a unique and invigorating performance which will add a further dimension to any blues music collection.