Ajay Mathur may not be a household name, but he sure knows how to roll with the best of them. Born in India, Mathur began putting in his dues around the 70s in popular venues throughout his home country. It was there that he was introduced to western roots music with such acts as Jimmy Page and songwriter Don Cherry (not to be confused with any bigoted ice hockey commentators). Now based out of Switzerland, the singer-songwriter envelopes a captivating encompassment of rock, folk, and soul-centric influences in his music.
It’s upon his Little Boat that Mathur ferries his latest collection of songs to his listeners. Without a doubt, too, this is his most richly developed set of studio music yet. From the moment that opening track ‘Here’s the Love’ begins, it’s all too evident that Mathur has redefined his sound for a more contemporary market without losing any of the authenticity or soul that his audience has loved him for these past several decades. This may be influenced by the nature of which Mathur went about developing songs for this LP, which is, at least from a very introspective level, encompassing what makes folk music at its core.
This is to say that Little Boat may present to us the most deeply personal songs Mathur has ever turned out. Starting from the top, he delves into the experiences he’s had throughout his life and thoroughly-developed career. Through this lens, every aspect of the human emotional spectrum seems to be covered here. There are times in which Mathur looks back on his life with a jovial, comedic breath and others where he contemplatively looks back—in anger, sadness, victoriousness, or otherwise—on the adversity he’s faced. It’s in these moments that we have a clear window into what’s shaped him, which has this Little Boat taking us on a bigger voyage than we may have imagined from the start.
Musically, the album is swampy and soulful. New listeners may call back to somewhere between Taylor Goldsmith and Billy Gibbons when giving Little Boat a spin, and they wouldn’t necessarily be wrong. Though, what’s presented here is unequivocally and unapologetically Ajay Mathur from start to finish. There’s dark projections here, like on album closer ‘Time For Deliverance’, or ‘My Wallet is a House of Cards’.
Though, much like with life itself, there’s never a point where Mathur fully gives in to his struggles. He acknowledges them, to be certain, but also takes listeners through the steps that took him from those dark places to the more jubilant shoes he’s fitted himself into today. Little Boat takes us on a journey that reminds us, no matter how hard it may get, there’s always a light on the other side that can keep us going, just so long as we remember it’s there. Therein, Mathur has given us a great gift in the form of a lesson that transcends even the music itself.