Slide To Freedom w guest Vocalist, BettySoo
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Slide To Freedom w guest Vocalist, BettySoo


Band World Blues




"Bio/Photo & Contact Info"

please visit the following websites for comprehensive bio/recording and performing history as well as media photo downloads:

- websites


TRUE BLUE From Ellis Kell

March 2007

"Slide to Freedom" from Doug Cox & Salil Bhatt, also on the NorthernBlues label, blazes a new blue trail with the fusion of Indian and blues music. This unique new collection combines instrumention of the 19-stringed mohan veena (V.M. Bhatt), tabla (Ramkumar Mishra), the 20-stringed Satvik veena (Salil Bhatt), and blues slide guitar (Doug Cox). The pairing of blues, rock and Indian music has been experimented with many times before, as with the Beatles and Rolling Stones use of Indian instrumentation and tonalities in their music. However, this new collection from Doug Cox & Salil Bhatt is a very unique blend of the sponaneity of the blues and the intricacy of Indian phrasings and tonality. The shared drone tones (also common to Celtic music) serve to deepen the mystical quality inherent in the blues already. The combination is an interesting mix of new world blues for the soul.
- Ellis Kell

"Globe and Mail Profile"

Special to The Globe and Mail

VICTORIA -- Doug Cox gets a call one day. A travelling musician needs a booker to handle the rest of his tour, as the fellow doing so has decided to go tree-planting. The financial lure of tree-planting is so low as to suggest no great fortune is to be had booking the shows. Despite this, Mr. Cox readily agrees.

For weeks, the musician and his new booking agent communicate by telephone and by e-mail. They get along swell, building a friendship that would reach fruition when they finally meet face to face on Vancouver Island. "It was like we'd known each other forever," Mr. Cox said. They could have been brothers, were one not from an ordinary Canadian Prairie family and the other from renowned Hindustani musical lineage.

Salil Bhatt holds a master's degree in music. He is an acknowledged musical genius whose father, Vishwa Mohan Bhatt, is a legend in their native India, as well as the winner of a Grammy Award. Doug Cox is a musician from Cumberland on Vancouver Island who produces instructional DVDs when not booking acts as artistic director of Island MusicFest, or touring with Amos Garrett, or playing a local pub with blues guitarist Sam Hurrie.

Salil Bhatt plays a satvik veena, a 19-string instrument of his own creation with a pine top and a body crafted from a block of century-old oak. Doug Cox is known as the Canadian ambassador of the Dobro resonator guitar.

Salil Bhatt traces his musical heritage through a 500-year family legacy, being only the latest in a half millennium of musical scholars.

Doug Cox has three older sisters who liked to listen to records.

When the pair finally met, Mr. Cox shyly asked whether he could study music for a week with the Bhatts. Instead, Salil Bhatt suggested they record an album together. Mr. Cox jumped at the chance.

They met at a recording studio known as the Hayloft, which is set in an old barn on acreage near Sherwood Park, Alta. For three days last summer, Mr. Cox and father and son Bhatt sat in traditional fashion on the floor, joined by Ramkumar Mishra, a tabla player. Salil Bhatt had his satvik veena on his lap; his father, who had studied with sitar virtuoso Ravi Shankar, had his mohan veena, a hybrid slide guitar of his own invention; and Mr. Cox his Dobro.

They wanted to record a live collaboration, so there was little rehearsal and few retakes. "To catch the moment," Mr. Cox said.

They played songs written by Blind Willie Johnson and Mississippi John Hurt, men of the South recorded in the 1920s, as well as lengthy instrumentals composed by Mr. Cox and the Bhatts. Think of the Delta Blues set on the Ganges.

In less than deft hands, it could be a travesty.

A video on YouTube shows the men sitting in a circle as they work the stringed instruments in their laps on a number written by the elder Mr. Bhatt.

"That's my favourite one so far," Mr. Cox said. "That's beautiful. What's that one called?"

"The name of this is Kirwani," the legendary musician replied.

"K . . .," Mr. Cox said, venturing to spell un unfamiliar word. "K-i-r . . ."

"K-i-r-w-a-n-i," Mr. Bhatt said.

"Beautiful," Mr. Cox repeated.

Mr. Cox, 44, is a musician with a reputation as an amiable and trustworthy partner, hence his many projects.

Last month, he travelled to Ontario for the Toronto Blues Society's annual guitar workshop before spending a workweek instructing aboriginal musicians at Misty Lake Lodge at Gimli, Man.

Next week, he will be in France to start a European tour with Mr. Hurrie, a fellow Cumberland guitarist with whom he recorded Hungry Ghosts, an acclaimed CD of acoustic blues. After performances in Belgium, Germany and Slovakia, it's back home for a quick Vancouver Island tour with Mr. Garrett. That'll be followed by a guitar camp on Bowen Island and another at Knoxville, Tenn.

Meanwhile, he's also putting together the lineup for the annual MusicFest. On a recent one-day visit to Victoria, he eagerly anticipated a call from the British singer-songwriter Joan Armatrading. (As it turns out, she will play the July festival, which will include Los Lobos.)

Mr. Cox was born in Calgary and grew up there, as well as in Edmonton and Winnipeg, as his father earned promotions from salesman to branch manager for a Canadian manufacturer. The family was not an artistic one, although all three girls spun plenty of vinyl.

"One of them was into sixties pop music, Monkees and Nancy Sinatra," Mr. Cox said. "One of them was into George Harrison, Jimi Hendrix and Gordon Lightfoot. The other was more into Carole King and contemporary rock.

"I heard a lot of music coming out of those bedrooms."

He fooled around on the lone guitar to be found in the household.

To make money, he laboured in a music distribution warehouse and put in the hours at a record shop, where he audited a postgraduate degree in popular music. "I listened to everything," he says now.

Among his customers was the founder of the Edmonton Folk Festival, where he would work for three years.

Mr. Cox moved to Vancouver Island about 25 years ago. He produced 150 concerts in Victoria and hosted an eponymous show on cable access.

Sittin' In with Doug Cox lasted 60 episodes, each introducing a musical guest. "We'd sit and jam," he said. He also played in local bands and busked in the Inner Harbour in Victoria.

He was known as a bottleneck slide guitarist until the day he caught a performance by Jerry Douglas, the American Dobro player. Mr. Cox went to the music store to buy a new instrument the next morning.

In the years since, he has become a well-regarded Dobro player himself, earning the honour of being the first to play the Montreal Jazz Festival. He was also the first Canadian to be invited to perform at the prestigious Dobrofest at Trnava, Slovakia. (The instrument was developed by John Dopyera, who formed a manufacturing company with his brother, giving birth to the name Dobro, which also happens to mean "good" in his native Slovak.)

The songs recorded in the Alberta farmhouse have been recently released as Slide to Freedom on the Toronto-based NorthernBlues Music label. Guitar Player Magazine calls the CD a "stunning, groundbreaking marriage of the blues and Indian classical music." It is already earning airplay on local and national CBC radio programs.

For Mr. Cox, the three days with the Bhatt father and son were unlike any other recording session.

"They pulled me into this place I'd never been before as a musician," he said. "I felt like I was sitting in a cloud."

- Tom Hawthorn


This twinning of two musical genres—Mississippi Blues and east Indian
music-often translates into a fascinating hybrid. “Slide To Freedom” on
the Northernblues label is an engrossing listen that is concurrently
exotic, spiritual, and intriguing. Doug Cox, a multi-faceted
instrumentalist and Blues festival organizer, developed an instant
rapport with collaborator Salil Bhatt. If that name sounds somewhat
familiar, it’s because he’s the son of legendary mohan veena guru V.M
Bhatt. Doug’s fascination with the mysterious powers of Salil’s satvik
veena--a complicated 20-stringed instrument---accelerated after striking
up a friendship at the Vancouver Musicfest in 2005. Cox even re-united
the Bhatts with bluegrass legend Jerry Douglas who had recorded with
them ten years prior, but his primary goal was to explore the interplay
of Mississippi Blues and Indian music. The setting they found was
perfect, just southeast of Edmonton they found a simple, open-beamed
space adorned by a few Indian rugs on the floor. These cozy, informal
confines offered the quietude where an unobtrusive recording journey
could ensue. The strains of Indian music bounce at you from a hundred
different directions, entrapping you in an intoxicating labyrinth of
indescribable tones, tantalizing drones, and elaborately-textured
sounds. VM Bhatt guests on two selections, Blind Willie Johnson’s “Soul
Of A Man” and “Father Kirwanit, where his genius on the mohan veena is
evident from note one.. The impact is simply transcendental. You quickly
understand why every Western guitarist regards him as an inspiration and
the foremost slide player on the planet. His son Salil has the gift too,
except his muse is given expression on the 20-stringed satvik veena.
“Arabian Night“, “Fish Pond”, and “Meeting By The Liver” are just a few
of the stunning revelations to be savored. I wish I had space to
elaborate on the brilliance of Doug Cox on the resonator guitar and
Ramkumar Mishra on the percussive tabla. Needless to say, “Slide To
Freedom” is a stunning tour de force that’ll leave you breathless with
its overwhelming beauty and complex brilliance. I feel humbled to have
had the honor of listening to this oeuvre of pure spirituality.

*Gary Tate - * - Gary Tate -

"Music City Blues"

Canadian slide guitar master Doug Cox has collaborated with two of the
Far East's most respected and revered musicians, Vishwa Mohan Bhatt and
his son Salil, to create "Slide To Freedom." It took more than a year to
come to fruition, and is a unique blend of Western blues melded with
Eastern "world" music. Doug's slide work is a perfect complement to the
Bhatt father and son's intricate playing of the mohan veena, a
19-stringed instrument whose origins date back some 500 years. V. M. and
Salil Bhatt are what us Westerners would call direct disciples of Ravi
Shankar, as the instrumentation presented here might remind some
listeners of Shankar and his sitar from the Sixties. Most of the cuts
are instrumental by naure, allowing everyone room to stretch out . The
music is quite soothing and relaxing, and at times is almost
trance-like. It's perfect for one's "quiet time" listening pleasure. Of
the vocals, we enjoyed Doug's traditional, slide-driven tale of the
age-old question, "What is the Soul Of A Man?" And, "Beware Of The Man
(Who Calls You Bro) has the distinctive sound of pure delta blues. A
unique collection from some of the finest slide musicians on the planet,
"Slide To Freedom" furthers the reputation of Fred Litwin's Northern
Blues label that shows that the blues has no boundaries. Get your copy
today!! Until next time...Sheryl and Don Crow.

*Music City Blues* - *Music City Blues*

"Blues Bytes"

Doug Cox, who is one of Canada’s foremost slide guitarists, has teamed
up with one of India’s best slide instrumentalists, Salil Bhatt, to
create a breathtaking fusion of Blues and Indian music. Slide To Freedom
(NorthernBlues) was no hastily thrown together session, as Cox and Bhatt
actually have practiced and worked together for over a year before
actually recording. The time and care put into this effort is obvious
from the beginning. Cox’s specialty is the dobro, a fairly conventional
instrument present in many blues recordings, but Bhatt’s instrument, the
satvik veena, has 20 strings, and will be a new sound to many blues
fans. The interplay between Bhatt and Cox is both haunting and beautiful
as they give a completely new look to old blues classics like
Mississippi John Hurt’s “Pay Day,” and Blind Willie Johnson’s “Soul Of A
Man.” On the Johnson track, and one additional track, “Father Kirwani,”
Cox and Bhatt are joined by Bhatt’s father and mentor, V. H. Bhatt. The
elder Bhatt is a Grammy winner, creator of the mohan veena (a
19-stringed instrument), and has appeared on discs by Ry Cooder, Bela
Fleck, Jerry Douglas, and Taj Mahal, and is considered to be the
cultural ambassador of India. Percussionist Ramkumar Mishra adds strong
support on tabla. There are eight tracks on this CD, each highlighting
the sparkling interplay between Bhatt & Cox’s instruments. Though most
of the songs go into the eight-minute range, each subsequent listen
brings out new aspects of each song. According to the liner notes, the
musicians sat cross-legged in the middle of the studio, watching each
other’s every move. The close camaraderie formed between the musicians
during this project really pays off. The steely sound of the resonator
mixed with the reverberation and melody of the veena makes a convincing
concoction. I would be the first to admit that I know as much about
Indian music as I do about flying the space shuttle. However, after
listening to Slide To Freedom over the past few weeks, I can safely say
that I want to hear more. Most blues fans should feel the same way.
Slide To Freedom is a incredible journey into world music by a group of
stellar musicians.

*Graham Clarke, Blues Bytes* - *Graham Clarke, Blues Bytes*

"Green Man Review"

When Ry Cooder recorded with V.M.Bhatt in an old church in California
for 1992's A Meeting by the River the two had just met. They basically
jammed and created an amazing amalgam of blues, Hawaiian echoes and
Indian classical music. Imagine what might have happened had they
actually practised. Well, Canadian slide guitarist Doug Cox and
V.M.Bhatt's son Salil worked for a year on the material that has just
been released as Slide to Freedom and it is a knockout!

Ramkumar Mishra adds tabla throughout, and I must say that the tabla is
my favourite drum of all the varied percussion instruments in the world.
It is a beautifully emotive and responsive thing, that really supports
the lacework of classical Indian music. That said, this is an album of
slide guitar music. The tabla is just there in the background. The
intertwined fretwork of Doug Cox, Salil Bhatt, (and a couple of guest
appearances by Vishwa Mohan Bhatt) is what this disc is all about.

V.M.Bhatt plays the mohan veena, a slide guitar he designed which has 19
strings and a big body, for lots of sound. Salil Bhatt plays the satvik
veena which has 20 strings (3 for melody, 5 for drone and 12 sympathetic
strings). While dad's looks like a cross between a Gretsch guitar and a
sitar, and Salil's more closely resembles a weissenborn, both are played
on the lap. Doug Cox plays a selection of resophonic guitars (from
picture on the album digipak one looks like an old National, the other
may be a Dobro.) His Web site shows a much greater variety of guitars,
including a custom-made weissenborn with wooden back and brass top. It's
well worth some time to browse all these Web sites to get a sense of the
kinds of instruments that make this music, and it's all played by
sliding a metal bar (of some description) up and down the strings of
their specific guitars.

Slide to Freedom begins with a delightful rendition of Mississippi John
Hurt's "Payday." This is one of my favourite songs of all time in its
original version. Hurt played a complex, but always gentle,
fingerpicking melody and bass line on his guitar, and sang in a natural,
lived-in voice, sounding like a neighbour just playing on the porch. I
love that about John Hurt! Cox and Bhatt pay tribute to that relaxed
essence as Cox kicks off with the fingerpicking base and simulates
Hurt's vocal. Then Bhatt comes along with an Indian slant to the melody
on the satvik veena. Should it work? The mix seems odd on paper, but it
sounds wonderful when listening to it. It definitely works. "Bhoopali
Dance" is next, with a much more Indian feel. This one ("Fish Pond" and
"Arabian Night" are co-writes between Cox, Bhatt and Mishra) presents a
flurry of single notes, back and forth between Doug and Salil. Almost a
cutting session, but friendly! Then it establishes a rhythm, the tabla
comes in and channels the focus. Sympathetic strings ring behind melody
lines far more complicated than one finds in the blues.

"Arabian Night" is more of a mood piece, establishing (as you might
suspect) an 'Arabian' feel and luring the listener in with single notes,
then runs, and then a repeated riff, and solid rhythm from the tabla.
Blind Willie Johnson's "Soul of a Man" has been recorded more in the
past year than in all the years it has existed. Doug and Salil take it a
different way. Doug plays the well-known riff and sings the lyrics while
Salil plays with raga-esque precision, illustrating that the soul of a
man is the same in every language... mysterious, hidden, even mystical.
Vishwa Mohan Bhatt is a guest on this track. He also plays on the slow
and introspective "Father Kirwani" (which he composed).

The album concludes with a couple of bluesy tunes by Doug Cox. "Beware
of the Man (who calls you Bro')" is similar in structure to "Soul of a
Man" and "Meeting by the Liver" is a play on the Cooder-Bhatt recording.
Both allow plenty of space for inventive slide playing and soulful rhythms.

Beautifully recorded by Miles Wilkinson and produced by "everyone
involved" Slide to Freedom is an exceptional album of world music,
packaged in another gorgeous foldout cardboard digipack designed by A
Man Called Wrycraft. Thanks to everyone involved.

*David Kidney - Green Man Review*
- *David Kidney - Green Man Review*

"Blues Art Studio"

“File under blues” it says but that is really only half of the story,
Canadian singer and wizard of the Dobro Doug Cox has a firm grounding in
the blues but is always looking to explore different directions. This
set should certainly fulfil those criteria.

Salil Bhatt is the tenth generation of his musical family, the son of
Vishwa Mohan Bhatt who invented the Mohan Veena – an adapted “guitar”
suitable for Indian slide playing – and who is special guest on a couple
of numbers here. There are blues numbers here (with Doug’s vocals), but
this is mostly a deep, very rootsy sound, very Indian in many places (at
least to Western ears) but also a very successful and accessible fusion.
If you have enjoyed similar excursions by the likes of Ry Cooder or Taj
Mahal, you’ll love this – and if you haven’t, then this is the place to
start. Give your ears a treat

*Norman Darwen - Blues Art Studio* - *Norman Darwen - Blues Art Studio *

"CBC METRO Morning - Toronto"

Not only are the instruments you're hearing on this CD unfamiliar to most, but there's a good chance they've never been played on the same record. We started the segment with Payday, which was written by the blues legend Mississippi John Hurt. Slide To Freedom is worth getting if you like acoustic, blues and classical Indian music. I'm a big fan of all those styles, and i like how energizing and meditative the sound is.

Doug Cox is from Vancouver Island and a brilliant dobro player. Salil Bhatt is the son of the acclaimed classical Indian musician Vishwa Mohan Bhatt, who won a Grammy Award with Ry Cooder in 1994 for the album, A Meeting By The River.

VM Bhatt is the inventor of the Mohan Veena, a nineteen-string modified guitar. His son plays the Satvik Veena, which is named after his son. It, too, has 19 strings and is made of a 100-year-old oak wood block. And Ramkumar Mishra plays tabla.

In July of 2005, Doug invited Salil to perform at the Vancouver Island Music Fest - which he produces. The two clicked and year later Salil suggested they make a record together. Doug says something interesting in the liner notes of the album. He writes that he wanted to find a place where Salil, VM Bhatt and Ramkumar Krishna weren't trying to fit into Western ideas and where he wasn't sounding like he was trying to parrot Indian music. The album was recorded in three days in a barn in Edmonton that had been converted into a recording space!

We closed with a lovely instrumental piece called Meeting By The Liver.

If you like what you heard this morning, check out these titles: A Meeting By The River, featuring Ry Cooder and VM Bhatt. Saltanah, featuring VM Bhatt and Simon Shaheen. Hindustani Slide Guitar by Debashish Bhattacharya.

Errol Nazerath - CBC METRO Morning - Toronto
- Errol Nazerath - CBC METRO Morning - Toronto


Slide to Freedom I released 2007

Slide To Freedom - Make A Better World released 2009

Slide To Freedom III - 20,000 Miles - coming in 2011

all on the Northern Blues label.



A son of the northern prairie devoted to the swampiest of southern blues befriends the Eddie Van Halen of Indian Classical music. They hold a meeting of musical minds using some of the world’s most wildly inventive lap slide instruments. The result: Juno Nominated (Canada's Grammy Awards – World Music Album of the Year, 2010) Slide to Freedom, an intuitive exploration of the unexpected place where the sonic passions of slide guitar and dobro master Doug Cox and Indian classical slide icon Salil Bhatt come together.

It’s a collaboration that goes far beyond the obvious “Indian meets blues;” it’s an improvised road trip across the terra incognita of the planet’s slide instruments. “People often think of slide instruments like the dobro as hokey American folk instruments, the kind of thing you play while sitting on a haybale,” Cox smiles, “but slide developed all over the world, from the United States to India, though it has a North American reputation. If you look at most folk musics, there usually is some kind of slide involved.”

India may in fact rival North America in its devotion to and creative license with lap-style slide instruments. Salil Bhatt hails from a long line of sitar and veena masters and innovators, most notably his father and fellow collaborator on Slide to Freedom 2, Vishwa Mohan Bhatt, one of Ravi Shankar’s oldest sitar disciples and an old buddy of George Harrison. The late Beatle is honored on “For You Blue,” where Vishwa takes a wild and eerie solo.

But the Bhatts’ true love is the slide, and they have both come up with new hybrid takes on the traditional Indian veena, a large and complex lute with two resonators. In the Bhatts’ hands, this mainstay of Indian classical music has collided with an arch-top guitar, all while retaining the sympathetic drone strings of a sitar, the plucked drone string of a banjo, and the lap playing style of the blues.

And Cox isn’t your average Canadian bluesman/folkie, either. Fascinated by the Indian slide, he made contact with Salil online right before Salil was heading to Canada for a tour. The tour hit a snag, and Cox arranged some concerts for Salil, Pandit Vishwa Mohan Bhatt and tabla player Ramkumar Mishra. Cox asked if he could spend a week studying with them. The Bhatts refused, but instead suggested they make an album together.

As they began experimenting, Cox realized that his usual standbys—the bottleneck slide guitar he’d first picked up playing with Canadian & British blues greats like Ken Hamm and Long John Baldry or the often haunting dobro he’d played with dozens of folk and bluegrass acts—just weren’t the best fit sonically for what Salil and company were playing.

So Cox picked up his Gadgie, a rare type of metal-bodied resophonic guitar created by an eccentric instrument builder in Northern England. It tuned to just the right resonant spot to match the veenas and blended perfectly with Bhatt’s sound, which is filled with the hard-core, rebellious drive of a rock guitarist. “I get the feeling that most people can’t tell exactly who’s doing what, and that’s a good thing,” Cox notes.

For Cox, this was more than a great moment leading to a great collaboration; it’s a symbol of the future of folk. “As a musician, I feel that the future of traditional music really lies in the coming together of cultures. Folk music until now came from isolated cultures developing their own unique style of music. That’s not going to happen anymore,” Cox explains. “Instead, traditional artists will expose each other to sounds from other places and create something new together. There may be wariness on both sides, I’ve learned, but there is also profound understanding.”

Slide to Freedom's newest member, Cassius Khan, replaces Ramkumar Mishra on tablas, who has decided to take a break from touring too far from his home in India. Cassius is the only known Indian Classical musician in the world who has combined Tabla playing and Indian Ghazal singing simultaneously, thus a remarkable feat in the Indian Classical music scene. His first appearance with Slide To freedom was at 2009's Stan Rogers Folk Festival in Canso, Nova Scotia.
Cassius Khan is featured on Ellen McIlwaine’s recent release “Mystic Bridge” (2006), on Stu Goldberg’s “Dark Clouds” (2006) album, two of Dave Martone’s albums, “A Demon’s Dream” (2004) and “The Alchemists”?(2004), and recently on ROAM’s new album, “Baby Steps” (2008).
When not touring, Khan has students around the world who learn Ghazal singing and Tabla playing from him. He is married to Kathak Dancer/ Harmonium player Amika Kushwaha. They reside in Vancouver. Cassius has a new CD out called Mushtari. The CD features Cassius Khan in his element singing Ghazals and playing a tabla solo recital.

The groups newest CD, called 20,000 Miles, is set to be released in the summer of 2011. It was recorded in the legendary Royal Studio's in Memphis where the likes of Al Green and Keith Richards have recorded. The new C