Words by Nigel Williamson
On April 6 this year, Sawhney recorded an unplugged session before a live audience direct to vinyl, without the safety net of post-production editing or modern sound-correction techniques. That performance is now available in the deluxe package of five vinyl LPs and, for those who ditched their Dansette when the world went digital, a CD version. As ever, Sawhney fuses Eastern and Western forms seamlessly on a set of 13 songs from his impressive back-catalogue and four new compositions, backed by a group of regular collaborators on flute, cello, tabla and drums, with singing provided by Sawhney’s long-time vocalists Tina Grace and Rahel.
As a non-singer, Sawhney has built his reputation as an inventive composer and skilled producer, coaxing performances out of other musicians. Yet what emerges here is a real sense of Sawhney’s own strengths as a performer. It has often been overlooked among his other accomplishments, but he’s a quite brilliant guitarist in a diversity of styles, from the classicisms of ‘Timetrap’ to the flamenco of ‘Herencia Latina’ and the Bert Jansch-style fingerpicking of ‘Accept Yourself’. His piano playing also boasts an impressionistic loveliness, heard to rich effect on ‘Tides’, ‘Breathing Light’ and ‘I Ask You’, a new composition featuring the soulful tones of Joss Stone. A master craftsman in the studio, it’s fascinating to hear the quite different kind of energy and adrenalin that Sawhney can generate in a wholly live setting.
TRACK TO TRY: Homelands
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