Thankfully, those fears were swiftly allayed by the sounds of Upward. The music that Hammond and Gupta make together is so warm, inviting, and easily enjoyed, there's just no way that a listener could feel many other emotions than joy when its sounds are spinning.
Along with Sameer's tablas, Ross plays 12 string acoustic guitar, and the combination is incredibly beautiful. The eight tracks that comprise Upward all share a generally calm and magisterial feel. The duo sound as if they're not so much playing to impress as they are to really communicate emotional depth, one that pulls from any number of musical streams. Disaster Amnesiac has often felt as if I were privy to an eloquent, learned conversation as I've listened; indeed, my emotional landscape has been lifted upward by their duo exchange. Not to say there isn't some fiery playing: when Hammond hammers down with great slide tones, it's as if lightning were hitting the Punjab (or Oklahoma) Plain, and Gupta's statements on Being and Becoming feature so much of the diverse sound and incredible complexity that make tabla drumming somewhat daunting for this listener. Still, an overarching feel of aesthetic wisdom, one that seems to disregard overt shows of prowess, instead focusing on deeper, much more musical interaction, takes the day. These two just know, and their sounds on Upward leave no doubts about that.
Thanks for pushing me up and out of my comfort zone, Sameer and Ross. Hopefully your sounds will lift up many other listeners as well.