Words by Nigel Williamson
Bottleneck blues meets Hindustani slide guitar
After meeting at a festival in Mumbai in 2013, the British guitarist Michael Messer and Manish Pingle, who plays the Indian slide guitar known as the mohan veena, jammed together and found an easy concordance and natural empathy. Fusing the blues of the Mississippi Delta with Hindustani styles and forms, two years later they added the London-based tabla player Gurdain Rayatt to accompany them on a British tour.
At its conclusion, the trio spent two days in the studio recording this quite superb album. With the exception of one double-tracked vocal, everything was recorded live, thanks to the intuition and understanding they had developed on stage together every night. Messer’s regular blues repertoire is the source of much of the material – a brace of Muddy Waters numbers, Fred McDowell’s ‘You Got to Move’ and JJ Cale’s ‘Anyway the Wind Blows’ – but they’re transformed by the Indian musicians, as the dark, droning mojo of the Delta is lent additional mystery by the layers of raga-like atmospheric ambience. Best of all is ‘Bhupali Blues’, in which the exchange works in the opposite direction, with Messer’s bottleneck blues tropes blending seamlessly into the structure of a traditional raga as the two guitarists exchange licks with scintillating panache.