Shubalananda and Shivananda – Two Sadhus’ Blues | Album Review

Shubalananda and Shivananda – Two Sadhus’ Blues


CD: 13 Songs, 54 Minutes

Styles: Indian/Eastern Blues, Blues Covers

One of the best things about the blues is how it’s spread all across the globe. It sports immense popularity, even in countries as culturally and physically distant from its origin as India. When we Westerners think of Indian music, we think of meditative droning, copious use of sitar, and maybe George Harrison. Blues is not the first word that comes to mind. However, Shubal “Shub” Kopp (who is now based in Massachusetts) and his co-performer Shivananda “Shiv” Sharma prove that classical Indian music and classic blues can be beautifully combined on their new album, Two Sadhus’ Blues. It features thirteen tracks: five originals and eight covers, including opener “You Don’t Have to Go” by Jimmy Reed, “Mellow Down Easy” by Little Walter, “Fixin’ to Die” by Booker White, and “Two Trains Runnin’” by Muddy Waters. Shub and Shiv pay personal homage to McKinley Morganfield on the sixth song, “Muddy Waters.”

This concept album was inspired by Shivananda’s last visit to the USA. Shub and Shiv went into the studio intending to bring Eastern-influenced instruments and melodies to Mississippi Delta Blues. The result is highly intriguing, but it works more effectively on some tracks than others (the nine-minute nirvana trance of “End of Time” versus the all-too-brief first number). In the opinion of yours truly, the Eastern sound develops best when it’s not compressed into a 2:58 timeframe. On vocals, Shubal and Shivananda can be more clearly understood than some American artists. With that said, their accents are pronounced. The overall impression is one of skillful fusion.

Shubalananda Saraswati, aka Larry/Shub Kopp, began his musical career early in life. His love for the blues came from Harry Belafonte, Elvis, and the rockabilly movement. When he was nine, he and his friends would lip-sync to old Muddy Waters and Little Walter records. By the age of 22, he was traveling with the Brooklyn Bluesbusters around New York, playing Chicago blues with John Leslie Nuzzo. He eventually formed the Larry Kopp Band, which played jazz and blues music in the northeast region of the US. As for Shivananda, he’s one of India’s great gems. He began his musical career at age two, sitting in his father’s lap as he played and performed professionally. By age seven, this prodigy had learned to sing all the rags and taals of Indian classical music. He and Shub have been traveling and touring for years, combining their love of both musical genres.

Joining Shub (guitars/vocals) and Shiv (tablas/Indian violin) are Ashley Flagg on vocals and songwriting for “All My Heart,” Jason Moses on violin for “Minglewood,” and Bob Veronelli on bass.

Classical Indian music is meant to inspire peace and tranquility. In a way, so is the blues. It’s meant to drive away a melancholy mood and the pain of heartache. These two genres aren’t so far apart!

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