The Unseen Guest
High On Chai
In the music of Declan Murray and Amrith Narayan, East truly meets West, creating something new and strikingly original. Not what one might expect, this music is not some sort of Celtic meets Raga folk-amalgam but more of a fusion between Twentieth Century western folk/blues and that not always definable blend most often called World Music. Even if it weren’t recorded on a budget, the music on this set would be impressive.
Besides Murray and Narayan, this release features the playing of six other musicians. The sometimes exotic arrangements include the sounds of at least twenty instruments traditional to Ireland and India, among other countries and cultures. The overall sound is always full and sometimes very big and dramatic.
Declan Murray’s vocals and especially his lyrics are exceptional. The music ranges across a variety of styles and the words are always poetic, at times bringing to mind Leonard Cohen, another artist who draws upon the world for his influences.
Parts of “Anywhere Somewhere” especially have this Cohenesque feel, both in the way the music is set up and in the sensibility of Murray’s lyric. The chorus flows out in a way that Cohen slides through songs like “Chelsea Hotel #2″ as one example. The similarity is striking.
“Mangala Express” begins with a guitar line reminiscent of Cohen’s “Suzanne” but moves from there into a cool, jazzy instrumental piece that allows both Murray and Narayan to demonstrate their skills as musicians.
I’ve always been a lover of drums and I must say that Murray’s work on the bongos is outstanding. Although he plays bongos on most of these tracks, the best example is “Never Enough” with its extended bongo solo. To find a comparison sufficient to describe this performance, I have to go back more than 40 years and say that Murray’s playing reminds me most of the wonderful Preston Epps.
“Out There” and “In the Black” are perhaps the most mainstream songs in this set. The title song, “Out There” has a sort of mid-century American folk-country ambience and yet the choice of instrumentation imbues a certain edginess. “In the Black” moves the listener forward a decade or two, with lyrics and music that sounds very much like some of the folkier songs released by The Hollies some 35 years ago.
With its simple, straightforward lyrics and steady blues rhythm, “Listen My Son” is perhaps the song in this set that surprises most. The general impact of this song is that of the great acoustic blues songs of the Thirties and Forties. Some of those exotic sounds do slip up through the background, bringing the song a certain eccentric character, but for the most part this is simply a good solid blues song.
In Out There, The Unseen Guest has created a musical experience that is both original and very special, creating from the sounds of East and West a new sound all their own. That sound is well worth hearing again and again.
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