Fellow traveller

There's a lot of talk about cultural appropriation these days. I've never really bought in. Yeah, it's dumb for a gringo to wear a Native American war headdress, but is there really anything wrong with borrowing pieces of music that doesn't belong to your culture (however you define that word) and using them to express something greater?

Ajay Mathur
Little Boat

Ajay Mathur was born in India and now lives in Switzerland. And he plays something that, these days, is called americana. You can hear blips and pieces of his Indian upbringing, but you're just as likely to hear a little zydeco or southern (American) rock. Or whatever it is that you might call the Band.

There are a lot of "americana" artists who have never set foot in the states, and many of them are outstanding. Hell, that tradition goes back at least as far as the Beatles, who "appropriated" the music of black Americans. Or even Louis Armstrong, who "appropriated" just about every sort of music that passed his ear.

Mathur has been playing this kind of stuff for decades, and his assured confidence rings throughout this album. He has an adventurous ear, and his loosely-held arrangements lend an open feel to these songs. Despite his wide-ranging approach, Mathur has defined his sound quite well.

Start listening, and I bet you can't stop. Mathur writes small gems, the sort of songs that ramble just enough to bring on a ruminative mood. All of a sudden, the album is done and it's time to repeat. Gladly.

Jon Worley

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