India, Scotland, and the Texas Hill Country: new music

The Scottish Borders and the Himalayas in India do not at first seem to have much in common. Through the imaginations of the musicians of India Alba, however, the structures of Gaelic song and certain raga gats, or themes from the borders of the Himalayas connected, and formed both a bridge between the musics and a base for exploring connections.

himalaya india alba music

India Alba’s debut recording was called Reels and Ragas, which is a fair description of what’s within. For their recently released second collaboration, The High Beyond, Scottish traditional musicians Ross Ainslie and Nigel Richard and classically trained Indian musicians Sharat Chandra Srivastava and Gyan Singh take things even further, creating a clear and adventurous meeting of sounds, played out in Scottish traditional tunes, original music, and compositions by groundbreaking Scottish piper Gordon Duncan. Border pipes, whistles, citterns, violins, tablas, frame drums, other sorts of percussion and an instrument called the hang are all parts of the sound. Reels, ragas, and a flashing, melodic, and tantalizing structure that comes from the meeting of these minds and sounds are parts of the music. Jog, the extended closing track, moves from raga to reel to blues and back again in music composed and played by the four men. It’s like nothing so much as a walk down a path in the borders that ends up in a villages street in the Himalayas, with a few side trips along the way. It makes a fine end to this journey and suggests roads these musicians might walk next.

Terri Hendrix is a singer and songwriter well acquainted with crossing musical borders as well, though hers are grounded in the many facets that make up Americana, folk, and Texas music. Her latest album, Cry Till You Laugh, actually started out to be a jazz recording, but in the course of researching and writing that material, she realized that the songs were calling her a a different direction.

The resulting music is a fresh mix of genres which Hendrix has often loved and visited before on record and in live performance. The jazz flavor is there, and there are blues, New Orleans music, folk narrative that, though the stories are varied, seems to draw from the life of her native Texas, songs that’d fit a country playlist, and through it all energy, hope, and a clear eyed and sometimes wry look at life’s ups and downs and what’s nexts. “When I do a show, I want people to feel like ‘Man, we just went on a ride,’ “ Hendrix says. “I love it when people cry, and when they laugh. As a performer, as a songwriter, I feel like it’s my job to get them to do both.” The fifteen tracks on Cry Till You Laugh offer a generous helping of music, emotion and idea, opening with a dark bluesy vision and closing with an uptempo affirmation of hope, possibility, and the unknown. The trip between, light to dark, laughter to tears, courage and hope, swing to jazz, to folk to country, is worth the taking.

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