You know an indie album stands out in 2020 when it makes your classic rock and jazz enthusiast father turn his head to ask who’s playing. Shillong based blues rock group Soulmate have been active and prominent members in the Indian independent music scene for almost two decades now. Anchored by the ever impressive voice of Tipriti TIPS Kharbangar and the meticulously slick guitaring of Rudy Wallang, the duo have come to be widely recognized as equal parts pioneers and innovators in the Indian blues rock scene. Having opened for Carlos Santana himself, the group are undoubtedly one of the most revered rock outfits in the country.
Their latest project, “Give Love”, is as refreshing as it is transportive. Six years since their last effort, the duo’s latest project was announced in the only way 2020 knows how, a livestream performance. From top to bottom, the album is unapologetically true to what makes Soulmate who they are – a focus on infectious riffs and powerful vocals with a hint of social messaging.
The project kicks off with this energy in overdrive. “The Way We Are” sounds straight out of the 70s, carried by Tipriti’s performance. “Don’t You Miss Me Baby” sees Rudy take vocal control, but the star here is the almost domineering electric riff running through to complement his more mellow voice. The title track, “Give Love” sees the duo focus on a combined vocal melody in the chorus. The sheer joyful energy of this track, “you got to give love/to receive love”, make it the perfect feel good blues to cure your Monday mornings. “Hole in Your Soul” is arguably the defining piece on the album. Beginning with an acoustic section, the song slowly builds up with to a beautiful chorus sung by a choir of children. The vibe takes a hard left, going back to the up tempo groovy energy in “I Sing the Blues”. The group also offers some topical moments in “Troubled Times”, where Rudy sings against the unequal treatment of various groups in this country and the selfish nature of politicians. Longtime fans will be sure to recognize Soulmate’s unforgettable cover of Koko Taylor’s 1975 classic “Voodoo Woman” also on the tracklist.
The timeliness of “Give Love” makes it all the more worth a listen. Today, when you might find yourself experiencing some form of isolation, loneliness, or a general loss of hope, Soulmate’s latest album is bound to revive your spirits. For fans of classic rock and the blues, just to hear fresh inventions in the genre while still staying true to its roots is incredibly exciting. But even if you’ve never given the blues a try, this project is the one for you. Give Love, quite simply put, is unabashedly joyful music that is as energetic as it is blissful.