Blackstratblues is the solo project of Zero guitar wizard Warren Mendonsa, where he was famous for lead guitar kickassery. But this, it seems, is a whole different many-headed animal. Here, he seems to have gone all ballady and folksy and Derek Truck-y and Mark Knopfler-y on us. With great success.
This is beautiful music that is, frankly quite unique in today’s landscape. There is the staple bluesy stuff, of course, but its the Indian inflections in the playing that add a dash of zest and tang. A bit like Derek Trucks on “Sahib Teri Bandi”, but without a slide. This could become a signature sound, you know. This style of playing is especially welcome on “Lullabyebye” and “Cowboys and Indians”, which the former seems to segue into. I’m probably not the first one to say this, but Mendonsa has considerable technical facility on the guitar, but deploys it with a judiciousness and taste that most guitar players in India would do well with. The solos serve the songs, not the other way around. Props!
Mendonsa has gone ballady and folksy and Derek Truck-y and Mark Knopfler-y on us.
By the time “Newness” came along though, I was wondering where the heavy shit I was expecting was. It didn’t come. Not that the album is bad as it stands. It’s great, but I do wish there was a little more rock n’ roll a la Zero. Even so, Warren has given us a proper fix of ballady rock on the beautiful “Another Sun”. What’s remarkable is the maturity shown here. The song could easily have broken out into an earth shaking guitar solo, but Mendonsa chooses to release the pent up energy on the slow, sexy “Ode to a Rainy Day”. The highlight of the album is undoubtedly “Older, Wiser & Grey”, which happens to have some really nice lyrics to complement the ephemerally light guitar riff. And the solo is painfully short but seriously lovely Knopflery fare.
I’ll tell you what; this is certainly an extremely mature and feelsome recording, but I wouldn’t mind a few guitar hero antics and a few uptempo rockers, just for some variety. I don’t mind slightly lo-fi production (in fact I think under-produced garage rock is often magical). Either ways, Mendonsa has all the signs of a rising star of solo guitar. He has the chops, and he has the feel. At the same time, he is as authentically Indian as the Ambassador car, which can only be a good thing. This sounds right.
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