Slide To Freedom w guest Vocalist, BettySoo

Slide To Freedom w guest Vocalist, BettySoo


A son of the northern prairie devoted to the swampiest of southern blues befriends the Eddie Van Halen of Indian Classical music. In turn, they connect with a modern Tabla master, birthing a fantastic musical collaboration called Slide To Freedom.


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


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.

Set List

Typical show is 2 x 55 minute sets