Blues and the World Beyond
Before we tell you a little about these two guys, we need to provide some explanation about the name, which is a story unto itself. Noé Socha, (guitar and harmonica) is legally blind but has limited vision in one eye. Cliff Schmitt (bassist) has a vision issue in one eye, so between the two of them they have one good eye. You’re probably thinking cyclops but that would be too predictable. Instead, they are using the name of a lesser known one-eyed monster. The Likho in Slavic mythology is such a creature, oft depicted as an old skinny woman in black or as an evil make goblin of forests.
Socha, 26, is an Italian guitar and harmonica player who now resides in NYC. He began his musical education in Italy at age seven when it was discovered he had perfect pitch. Hence, he was classically trained on xylophone, piano, cello, and guitar. At age 12 a guitar teacher introduced him to blues music and through his dad, he acquired as many blues albums as he could. He has created his own patented harmonica sound with his almost flawless guitar technique. Socha also graduated from Berklee College of Music and has since received countless awards.
Cliff Schmitt, 46, began playing cello at age 12 and switched to electric bass at 15. He later took up the upright bass at 18. Like Socha, Schmitt has a classical background as well as jazz, having been trained at University of North Texas. Schmitt has been based in NYc for the past twenty years and is the house bassist at Terra Blues.
This is a unique sound, purely acoustic with just guitar, harmonica and upright bass. The duo penned sic originals and mixed them with eight standards, recording all 14 tracks in just two days in Brooklyn. What you hear is often spontaneous improvisation, recorded directly to tape with no overdubs. Even the well-known tunes like Dixon’s “Spoonful” and “You Shook Me” sound completely fresh in the hands of these two masters. As you listen closely, you’ll note a few passages that echo their classical and jazz backgrounds too. As you’d expect, Socha’s originals carry some European flavor but the it’s uncanny how the album hangs together cohesively through such staples as Zeppelin’s “Black Dog” and Freddie King’s “Hideaway.”
There are not many albums that have a sound like this one although there are some acoustic guitar and upright bass passages that may remind you of Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks. The Likho Duo though have no vocals. It’s purely instrumental music of the highest caliber. It’s a relatively light sound that somehow comes across as heavily provocative.
- Jim Hynes
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