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You Walk Alone

Dentist-Turned-Musician Varun Carvalho’s thought-provoking, soul-stirring new album

When singer songwriter Varun Carvalho released his debut album Gotta Go Home in 2009, price  it caused quite a revolution in Goa’s local indie music circuit. Much of it had to do with his anthem-like melodies and the simple yet profound lyrics that accompanied them. Not to mention his image as the redeemer of good original music in the state where the indie market is filled with halfhearted attempts at making an album and the resulting lowly produced projects.

This second offering by the dentist-turnedmusician is definitely worth the wait. The eight-track album begins with the title song – the introspective ballad ‘You walk alone’. The song plays to Varun’s biggest strengths as a songwriter – his ability to sum up life lessons in easy words. The song combines his effortless vocals with soaring strings and after just one play, it begins to grow on you. The reflective tone he sets with this song is carried forward by the second number – ‘I say I love you’. The song spans a huge sonic territory and goes from being a velvety love ballad to an up-tempo rock anthem that you’d be singing along to towards the end. The album switches gears with the next song, titled ‘I’m an Indian’. It is a foot-tapping number featuring the talented sitar player Chote whose finger wizardry adds a vibrant dash of colour to the composition. The song is also punctuated by enjoyable rap parts sung by Nkenge Ross. With this slice-of-life song Varun proves that he can whip up witty lyrics sung to a peppy melody with as much ease as a dreamy ballad.

‘Roll up the mountains’ is another window to his versatility. This country number scores high on catchiness and the message it sends out to listeners– to believe in yourself and take risks in life. What is especially remarkable about this song is that it manages to get the mood and sentiment right without being preachy. ‘So far away from you’ turns out to be a gem hidden in the album. It has everything going for it – a melody that will stay in your mind for days to come and lyrics that move you with the grief of partition they carry.

‘She’s asking you’ is another song that brings to the fore a rare skill among songwriters that Varun is blessed with. He is able to capture the most complex emotions in his straightforward words. He poses the problem and offers a solution too. The plaintive sarangi, played by maestro Ghulam Ali, fills the song with the right feel. With its twin assets of clever fusion of musical styles and hummable tune, the song would appeal to masses and connoisseurs alike.

The next track ‘You got me freedom’ is a successful sound experiment – the harmonium riffs, combined with the sitar and impactful beats make for an explosive mixture. Varun belts out in the track in its inimitable punchy style. He comes out even stronger with the blues number that concludes the album. ‘Mr Zizzy’ is an idiosyncratic number that is rich in all things a blues lover would look for in a song, such as the teasing licks, call-and-answer vocal style, guitars and some more guitars.

The versatility that Varun offers in this album delightfully sates the hunger for good music from one of India’s culturally richest states. He strikes a chord with the listener with his very first song. Throughout the album, the crests and troughs in the mood, tempo and styles of the tracks ensure that the listener is never tuned out. Varun and his partner in crime in music, the Mumbai-based composer and producer Andrew Ferrao (who also produced his debut album) have been able to catch the pulse of the youth quite accurately. Whether it is good old rock ‘n’ roll or a lilting bluesy melody, the duo has pulled off every composition with finesse and great musicianship. It wouldn’t be wrong to even say that with this album, they have created a fine benchmark for their peers to reach.

You Walk Alone is being released by the label AMI Records, London, UK.