The fourth solo album by this B21 graduate is being touted as his last. When Jassi Sidhu made an appearance to launch it on the BBC’s Asian Network in May of this year he stated that, after nearly two decades, he wants to try something new. While he hasn’t said what that might be, he’s also made it clear that this won’t be quite the last bhangra fans hear of him, as he might make guest appearances on other artists’ albums. Anyway, marketing strategies aside (and reading between the lines) Singing Between the Lines is pretty typical of what’s kept him out of a day job for so long. Let’s face it, Prince isn’t making records anymore – on account of the fact that so few people actually pay for them – but it hasn’t stopped him making a ton from performing.
Long-term collaborators Rishi Rich and Aman Hayer are among the six producers Sidhu lists alongside himself in the credits, but it’s not as if the album suffers from a too-many- cooks-syndrome or any inconsistency of tone. There’s sufficient variety to ensure that the punishing dhol beats that are bhangra’s default setting don’t get too overpowering, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of dance-floor shakers, the catchy title-track (in India) Nai Reesa being a case in point. Naa Rukiyeh seems to reclaim aspects of Britney Spears’ mega-smash Toxic and Naal Nuchuna seem to have a touch of Gypsy electro-swing.
Some might find the quasi-classical ‘strings’ and contemporary RnB beats of Yaariya a bit of an over-egged paratha, but the tempo-switching, tumbi-twanging folk vibe of Umrit Varga Paani is a definite highlight; as is Oh Jatta, with its tongue-in-cheek atmospheric intro. And, mercifully, there are plenty of ‘real’ instruments throughout including flute, Indian banjo, violin and sarangi.
Non Punjabi speakers will struggle with the lyrics, but at least one commentator has suggested that some female fans may not respond favourably to Puthura Dhiya Dhaatha. Of the two guest vocalists, the less convincing is English-language rap by Sole; the other is Nindy Kaur, who brings a silky presence to Yaariya. Overall, this is no great departure from what we’ve come to expect of Sidhu. The only question is: What happens next, Jassi?