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Sunday, October 22, 2017

CD Review: Michael Messer’s Mitra - Call of the Blues

Michael Messer (guitar & vocals), Manish Pingle (Mohan veena) & Gurdain Rayatt (tabla) + Richard Causon (piano & organ)
(Review by Russell)
British bluesman Michael Messer has played in numerous line-ups during a thirty plus year career.   
In 2013 Messer was invited to perform at a festival in Mumbai. It was during his visit he met Manish Pingle. They jammed together and Messer resolved that one day they would perform together on a stage in front of an audience. Messer recruited London-based Gurdain Rayatt and, in September of that year, the trio played a gig at the Troubadour Club in London. Mitra was born.
Call of the Blues opens with the first of two songs written by Mississippi Fred McDowell. You Got to Move will be familiar to blues fans and, on first hearing, suggests the CD’s ten tracks will more than likely be comprised of readily identifiable American country blues. And, to a degree, this is the case with Michael Messer’s slide and lap steel guitars prominent in the mix. Delta bluesmen, South Side  Chicago blues, Americana – they’re all present on this album recorded in April 2015. The thing that sets this album apart is Messer’s dream project of working with classical Hindustani musicians.

Manish Pingle plays the Mohan veena, an Indian string instrument similar to Messer’s slide guitars, and Gurdain Rayatt is regarded as one of his generation’s foremost tabla players. Call of the Blues seeks to integrate Eastern and Western musical cultures. The extent to which this aim succeeds is, perhaps, down to the ears of the listener. Two Muddy Waters’ classics – Rollin’ and Tumblin’ and I Cant’ be Satisfied are inescapably the blues. Pingle and Rayatt were largely unfamiliar with Messer and his country blues repertoire and it is to their credit that they quickly assimilated the form prior to going into the recording studio. Bhupali Blues is listed as ‘Trad. Raga arranged by Messer, Pingle, Rayatt’. This is Messer gaining insight to the Eastern, Hindustani musical form – the tables turned!

JJ Cale’s Anyway the Wind Blows veers into Americana territory with the trio once again acquitting themselves – Cale’s laid back beat appears to be to the liking of all concerned. Sweetheart Darling closes the album (playing time a little over 53 minutes). Michael Messer’s Mitra is currently touring  and the itinerary includes an appearance this Friday (October 27) at Newcastle’s Jazz Café.               
Russell           
Call of the Blues by Michael Messer’s Mitra is available on Knife Edge Records (KER CD001). 

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