For those less schooled in the particular regional and classification disparities among Indian musical genres, Songs About Birds and Trains helpfully points out on its cover that the album consists of contemporary interpretations of Bengali, or East Indian, folk and popular songs. What is much more easily certifiable is the quality of the music; one would be hard-pressed to come by a work more delightful, modest, unassuming, or lovely. The album's stimulus was the husband and wife duo Samir and Sanghamitra Chatterjee, tabla maestro and sumptuously voiced singer, respectively, in collaboration with Church of Betty leader Chris Rael, a longtime advocate and classically trained student of Indian music himself. Rael was uniquely qualified to set Samir Chatterjee's rhythmically influenced interpretations to Westernized musical arrangements, having produced only a few years previously the exhilarating Forbidden Kiss by Anglo-Indian singer Najma. The results are much the same. Not only does Songs feature the cream of Indian, fusion, and jazz musicians, its songs are performed with a similar buoyant passion, particularly evident in Sanghamitra Chatterjee's evocative voice. The album is not as kaleidoscopic as Forbidden Kiss. Rael opted for a considerably more low-key and subdued overall sound, with less of a crisp, glossy finish and a slightly less expansive palette of colors. Instead the music has a radiant, steady, intimate luster. It is, indeed, a buried world music treasure.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Stanton Swihart