Amit Dattani – Santiago
Self Released – 4 March 2018
Formerly one half of Mellow Peaches, reedy-voiced Birmingham-based Amit Dattani’s self-released solo debut, produced and mixed by the inimitable Gavin Monaghan, is firmly rooted in his love of classic American country blues, his dextrous fingerpicking likened to that of John Fahey, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Stefan Grossman and Leo Kottke or, for a more contemporary comparison, Jim Ghedi, but with his own distinctive style.
All but two of the ten tracks are self-penned and while the lyrics can sometimes feel narratively abstract, the emotional resonance is always felt. It opens with the title track, its fluid guitar work and chorus hook rendering it the most immediate in the set, seemingly a song about songwriting as he talks about how words sometimes “curl up and land on the paper, most times they shrivel up and die with the tide” and of spinning a 45 in search of inspiration.
Boats and Trains is another nimble fingerpicked number that sports such lines as flying up to the sky and drinking wine with Audrey Hepburn, using his words as stinging wasps and smoking colours that might possibly be about becoming more mature as you get older. He takes the tempo down to a lazy afternoon slouch for Home, a love song about losing your restless shoes, settling down and finding a house that feels like a home and how “what a thrill keeping still can bring me.”
Izzy is the first of two instrumental tracks, a dazzling and sprightly country blues cocktail of interwoven acoustic and resonator guitar that sounds as though it might have been plucked from some 30s southern jamboree, the album taking a seemingly direct autobiographical turn with the deeper picked sound of Charcoal about not trying hard enough as he “caught myself colliding with the shadows down the hall”, his voice, which at times recalls a less breathy Donovan without the Scottish accent, pitching higher notes as he sings about “running on tobacco now”, the pace briefly slowing down before the instrumental play out.
The first of the traditional numbers comes with Swing and Turn, an old Appalachian party song more usually known as Swing and Turn, Jubilee and popularised by Jean Ritchie, the other, the penultimate track being the gospel hymn Will The Circle Be Unbroken, Dattani’s version with its repeated resonant guitar riff taking a midtempo acoustic blues approach.
Raise The Dead is another infectious self-penned number, his fingers flying over the strings, that’s essentially about kicking back and having a good time after the 9-5 grind and life’s slaps in the face. The other instrumental, the 90-second Acanthus is a slower slide guitar tune named for the plant form most commonly used to make foliage decorations, leaving the album to end with the warm embrace of Hummingbird, an intricately picked avian fable about searching for love and contentment that, again, slackens the tempo for a more soulful vibe and some impressive circular picking in the final instrumental stretch. A joy for genre purists and roots novitiates alike, this is among the year’s finest debut albums and assures Dattani a place at the same table as those that have both influenced and fuelled his love of the music he plays.
Amit Dattani Album Launch Tour Dates
22nd February – The Humber, Coventry
4th March – Kitchen Garden Cafe, Birmingham (Official launch)
6th March – Naseby Village Hall, Daventry
10th March – Pumphouse Studio, Lincolnshire
30th March – Treehouse Bookshop, Kenilworth
20th April – The Big Comfy Bookshop, Coventry
4th May – Zeffirelli’s, Ambleside, Cumbria
11th May – Kontra Roots, Northampton
20th May – Cross Keys, Alcester
Find out more here: www.amitdattanimusic.com