Ajay Srivastav

2021

Joe Bonamassa ROYAL TEA.jpg

I hadn’t come across this artist before but as is so often the case, as soon as the name registered in my consciousness, I started seeing it everywhere. Ajay certainly brings a new spin to familiar territory in mixing early Bob Dylan polemic messaging (thankfully not the same vocal delivery from that period - we don’t need any more nasal imitators) with acoustic Blues guitar playing over a backdrop of Indian instruments. The sound of chiming bells is heard in the background of many tracks, which can easily trick the listener into repeatedly checking their phone for a new message.

The accumulated effect of all these influences makes for a really enjoyable, calming experience. On 'Bed of Arrows', the sound of the slide guitar as it plays a melodic line using a sub-continental scale creates an almost hypnotic feel. 'Break The Circle' starts with some classic delta Blues riffing and, the distinctive rhythmic feel of the assorted hand played tablas aside, we could be heading down the Mississippi, however, as the song progresses the guitar playing becomes very George Harrison circa 1967-8 and the combined harmonic chanting gives the song a completely different feel.

It is this sort of transition inter-song that gives the album a wide aural landscape and makes it much more than just another steel slide guitar player’s offering. 'Holy Mother' is a song that overtly reflects the songwriter’s heritage and is a lovely devotional number that features a haunting accompanying melody on the Sarangi (or something similar – I haven’t a clue what it is, but is has a beautiful tone). This is immediately followed by 'Golden', which is a rollicking number with a more traditional Blues shuffle feel, nifty lyrics that wittily convey their message without being pompous and a great chorus that has crossover favourite written all over it.

This is an intriguing collection of songs that cleverly blends diverse musical influences, the droning sound associated with Indian music providing a rich backcloth for the clear lines of the artist’s resonator guitar. This is worth checking out as something that offers a fresh perspective on well-trodden ground as well as having a unique charm of its own.

Simon Green