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Mishra Mishra
Album: The Loft tapes
Label: Self Released
Tracks: 12
Website: http://www.mishramusic.co.uk
Mishra are a Sheffield based band, a self described global folk collective. With musical roots that spread across the whole world they are very much stronger as a consequence. Kate Griffin and Ford Collier performed as a duo, adding a folk jazz double bass / bouzouki player to become the musically eclectic Mishra. For this their debut album, with each track captured in one take in a Gloucestershire Farmhouse loft, they added Tabla player and Sheffield University mentor John Ball. THE LOFT TAPES is a joyful smile inside and out, check out the physical release for a wonderful cover design featuring Kate's inspired homage to Mugal painting that very much sets out the bands stall before you have pressed play.

The first track is an improvised intro on "Raag Jog", bowed bass, a picked banjo and a whistle masquerading as a bamboo flute blend Indian classical and blue grass. It leads into "Road Dust and Honey", a joyous romp around John Ball's Tabla, Ford Collier's very mystical sounding whistle and Kate Griffin's banjo. Kate's vocal is also a delight, its Bluegrass Americana lilt infused with a little Indian classical ornamentation. "Chase The Sparrowhawk" continues this truly international musical journey, Bluegrass banjo, Irish whistle, but something of the changes and skittering tempo suggests the sitar. Music is the great universal language, genres are just accents or dialects and the instruments and styles blend and fly together. "Deep Sea" features Kate Griffin's hypnotic voice, solo or double tracked to create a heavenly chorus. Energetic and atmospheric, again a wonderful blend is created. Like the previous track, "Beautifully Blind", a beautiful love song is written by Kate who delivers another stunning vocal. "Angeline The Baker" is a classic bluegrass song and Mishra's spirited version is a credit to them. The punchy well defined recording allows both the guitar and banjo space to shine and Kate's vocal for me eclipses Aoife O'Donovan on Crooked Stills recording which was my first comparison to this album highlight recording.

"Jog For Joy", a pun on the Indian raga, is a 'smile on your face' instrumental. John Ball's Tabla is right on the money from the start through the fast and reflective sections. "Taru Taru", by Griffin and Collier continues the reflective feel with great interplay between the tabla, guitar and whistle on the instrumental section. The positive affirming lyric perfectly delivered by Kate adds the final icing to another album highlight as she drops in a little Indian percussive singing. "Keep Your Kindness" is a wonderful duet between Kate and Ford with tricky timing and great feeling. "Scarlet Town" is a cover of the Gillian Welch song that Mishra entirely make their own. Kate's vocal has the longing and emotion for the lyric and the percussive banjo and guitar build great tension. "Morphology" is a great mood piece suggesting, dance, movement or travel. Shaken percussion suggests dry heat while the banjo and whistle a train. This is great joyful dance of a piece, you can imagine the nods and smiles between the musicians. The wordless vocals and percussive singing at the end as the tune passes between them and the spry banjo are a joy.

This is an album that is interesting, joyful and surprising right up to the final fade. This album brings together American Bluegrass, European Folk and music from India, to create something special, exotic even, without being contrived or forced delivering results that are a delight from start to finish.

Marc Higgins

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