[Cookie: Ok Not edited, not spell checked... this is all you get right now..., cut and paste what you want I have no idea if this is too much or too little probably too much I do that just leave all the stuff your afraid to leave and you'll be happier later....you know....Love you J]
I'm writing these liner notes at 3:00 AM from a crack town hotel in Birmingham Alabama. I'm sober again however but again in between homes lying in bed next to my fiance' and a Japanese Bobtail cat hoping for an evening void of bed bugs and/or a robbery of our budget rental moving truck. We are on our way to New Orleans to settle down. I have been on tour for months and have had two days off in in the last two plus months. The last week has been packing boxes, arguments, 12 step meetings, landlords, utility companies and overnight drives. I'm telling the reader this now not to brag, complain or again indulge my already over-inflated sense of self but rather only as a footnote to explain how much I care about this disc that is in your hands or this group of mp3's you have downloaded. There are few individuals I would do this for and Aki Kumar is right now at the top of my list of those few.
I first met Akarsha Kumar I guess over ten years ago. He was already a well studied traditional player, already the shining star pupil of the discerning, tasteful and careful educator and player David Barrett out of San Jose CA. I was impressed by the young mans ability to play traditional blues in the style of Little Walter and other past icons better than most I have heard twice his years in age and time on the harmonica. He was humble, funny, good looking and was engaged to an equally gifted young lady. I communicated with Aki several more times over the last ten years on a very shallow, harmonica-esque level at best. That story however is not why I'm writing from crack town Alabama, Days Inn's with bobtails, fiance's, budget trucks, and midnight moves... Sick mind you sick.... Sick... Sneezing, tired, dirty and over everything at 3:00AM. I am writing this in this miserable state simply because it is easy to write. Because if you are listening o his music while reading this you are hearing a real artist not just another blues harmonica player. He is a great harmonica player but one Youtube search these days can turn up a dozen of jazzy, rocky, bluesy young players from literally all over the globe who are almost equally at home playing Howard Levy as they are with Sonny Boy. They're out there! They're doing stuff... Those kids are great and humbling to listen to but to be a real artist you must have vision. Meaning you must see something. The first thing you better see is yourself if you want to get people like me to pay attention. I don't care how fast you can play "All the Things You Are" or "Giant Steps" in Eb on a C diatonic harp... if I don't think you mean it I'll click on the video of transvestite, cannibal serial killer that pops up before you make the bridge. I don't care if your playing Walter's Roller Coaster note for note on a vintage premier tube PA system with an Astatic mic with a 1920's crystal element owned by Muddy Water's Mother if I don't think it's really you or a real part of you... it's meant for YOU-tube. That's not a bad thing, just a common one and I do love Youtube an all it's it's trappings. But Aki Kumar is too strong for simple techniques, trends, cliques or A major 9th chord arpeggiat-ing acrobatics. He has something to say as a person first which means this music your hearing is an honest reflection of who he is, how and where he was born and what he likes and wants to be. It's and honest expression of a brave, unashamed , bold, individual taking risks with a sense of humor, integrity and self that few artists of any genre have ever really dared to do especially on this early of an outing. I'm impressed. I'm a fan.
Aki's signing is very good, very relaxed, and very smooth. His ability to sing all the traditional Indian melodies is very cool to my Western ears. His Harmonica Playing is beyond solid, understated, he never shows his whole hand as he was taught, his tone is huge and his time is some of the best I've heard. His sense of time is as relaxed and settled as Kim Wilson, Sugar Ray Norcia and Madison Slim. The harp solos reflect the melodies of the songs, are never out of place and the instrument sounds as if it should be on every one of these Bali-Wood tunes. Aki remains relaxed on the Western tunes as well like "My Home is a Prison" and his ethnicity lends itself to this music both Western and Eastern. I could go on and on about the music and the songs, the technique, the great session musicians, Kid Anderson's stellar guitar, production and surprisingly appropriate Sitar playing but this disc is about a lot more than solo's, songs and good singing. VERY few Blues releases are about anything more and that's ok but this one is. It's rare, special, remarkable and courageous. If you think my words to be overly sensational, or histrionic please ignore them and only consider what Aki stands to lose from a marketing perspective here: These mostly Indian songs, done in a Western fashion, by a natural born Indian artist are something not too short of actual blasphemy in India... There is a very good chance if this disc does not BLOW UP overnight in India that it will sell very few copies at all due to that fact is is NOT traditional Indian music and it's certainly not pretending to be only blending (which I understand may be worse....) It may even garner quite negative press. My Indian friends tell me there is a real risk of insult to Indian culture and sacred Indian Music culture at work here... Conversely, Aki's album is not TRADITIONAL blues either... Aki is blending Indian Pop songs with traditional Blues approaches, singing unafraid with his accent and using sitars behind Delta Blues Jams when he's not putting Howlin' Wolf behind beloved Indian Pop tunes. That is NOT a formula for success in the growing, rigid world of Blues Purists. Blues Purity is how Aki was musically raised in this Country...From the nest of the Bay Area and under the wings of Birds like Mark Hummel, David Barrett, Rick Estrin and others this Bali-Bird was hatched. No this album is not a "safe" or even expected Blues release...This album is a marketing nightmare, an impossible sell, a potential financial failure, a slap in the face to both the Eastern and Western Cultures that nurtured him as a child both culturally and musically.... This album is great art!
Aki Kumar is now an adult, a grown ass man, he has killed his Eastern Father and Fucked his Western Mother, he is a real, true and pure artist, a real person, This record It is an unapolgetic admission, realization and nod to the integrity of self that is Arkarsha Kumar, that is more than enough for me and God!"