Church of Betty

Fruit on the Vine

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In the 35 years or so since George Harrison began incorporating elements of classical Indian music to western pop songs there have been very few groups to carry the torch, mostly due to the subtlety of Indian music and the deep understanding necessary to pull it off. Chris Rael of Church of Betty has this understanding, having spent time traveling and making field recordings in India and Nepal, as well as studying sitar and classical vocal music in India.

That being said, make no mistake, this is a rock album. The tunes all belong to the pop song form, but are never far from a classical Indian melodic sensibility. The way Rael uses Hindustani singing techniques and melodies so effortlessly is really quite amazing. Although sitar and tabla lead some of the songs, others, like "Fruit on the Vine," are more grounded in western instrumentation. Even so, there are melodic flourishes that clearly point to India. When Indian instruments come to the forefront, they are fully incorporated and integral to the music, not merely exotic trappings. A string section is tastefully employed on several tracks, adding an understated lush quality. The lyrics are generally optimistic, celebrating life and natural beauty in a way that never seems sappy or overtly hippie-psychedelic. In the end, dissection and analysis are almost a disservice to Church of Betty; so complete is their vision. This is a true East-West fusion of the highest order.

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