Roadhouse Album Review: Prakash Slim gives new meaning to the country blues in “Country Blues From Nepal”

Prakash Slim — “Country Blues from Nepal” — DeVille Records

Ram Prakash Pokharel, or Prakash Slim, living in his native Nepal, is proving what all blues music lovers instinctively know — that the music of the blues has no borders.

In his case, the music that’s crossed his border and captured his spirit is the very distinctive acoustic country blues, essentially the classical music of the blues genre.

Prakash has just released his first album, very appropriately titled, “Country Blues From Nepal,” featuring seven classics from the style as well as six of his own compositions.

The classics he picks here show off the strength of Prakash’s vision and talent. There are covers of “Jitterbug Swing” (Bukka White), “Moon Going Down” (Charley Patton), “Me and the Devil Blues” and “Crossroad Blues” (Robert Johnson), “You Gotta Move” (Mississippi Fred McDowell), “Police Dog Blues” (Blind Blake).

That’s an ambitious undertaking, but Prakash pulls it off nicely. His interpretations flow easily, and his guitar work is excellent — traditional country with the added touch of a hint of Nepalese influence. It gives his music a sort of ethereal quality that makes for a welcome counterpoint to the harshness of some country blues.

Prakash has also added six of his own songs in the same style, but based on his own experiences — his life in Nepal. I think these are even more interesting than his covers. It takes a genuine sensitivity to the musical style and its origins to create your own versions and still have sound original. The guitar work on these tracks displays a little more of Prakash’s unique flavor. The tracks include “Blues Raga,” “Living for the Memory,” “Villager’s Blues,” “Corona Blues,” and “Poor Boy.”

The two final songs — “Bhariya Blues” and “Garib Keto” — are sung in Prakash’s Nepali language. He explained them in a recent email exchange:

“Those two songs are in my native Nepali Language. “Garib Keto” is a Nepali version of “Poor Boy” and lyrics and meaning are the same too. “Bhariya Blues” is about a porter’s life, and it says every morning the porter needs to go downtown carrying heavy loads by crossing a dark forest and wild stream.”

“People dominate him by saying porter all the time but he says he hasn’t done any wrong although people tease him, saying beggar. He takes breakfast at a tea shop on the way and he says he will pay money before dying if owner asks him. He dreams about to buy new clothes for his son, but he can beg for himself. He says he writes a letter to his father and mother with love and greetings, and says he sends mail by the air because he doesn’t have money for post office. He can only breathe by putting heavy loads somewhere on the way but he gets full rest remembering his family all the time.”

All in all, this is a very interesting, very enjoyable take on the country blues style. Prakash’s vocals are uniquely his own, but still reflect their heritage, tinged with some international intrigue.

It’s all just another way of testifying that the blues is indeed a universal language.

Here’s Prakash’s very interesting biography.

Here’s an Interview with Prakash from the Blues.Gr blog by Michael Limnios

Here’s an endorsement of Prakash’s country blues style from Rory Block, who has her own impeccable credentials in acoustic country blues — she’s simply one of the very best.

Prakash Slim’s version of “Police Dog Blues,” also found on this album:

Tracklist and credits:

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