The first time I listened to this set, I kept thinking Harry Manx sounds like somebody, but I couldn't put my metaphorical finger on just who. Then it came to me, in his voice and vocal style, Manx mostly sounds a whole lot like Kevin Head, an artist local to my area who has had some success nation-wide in Canada, and less often he sounds just a bit like Van Morrison. How Manx sounds instrumentally is something else entirely. This music is a purée of Indo-European blues-rock with a folk-jazz edge that leans toward a sort of Cat Stevens profundity. Now how do you put a handle on that?
For lack of a more accurate description, Manx is most often classified as a blues artist who happens to mix raga and other eastern forms into his western blues music. In fact, this very eclectic artist blends a dozen styles at the intersection of East and West and does it so subtly that their concurrence seems to be perfectly natural. Most of the music on this release sounds not so much like The Blues as it does the sort of evolved folk music Van Morrison had been doing during his very Jazz period.
While most of the songs in this set were written by Harry Manx, seemingly without effort Manx manages to seamlessly integrate songs by artists as diverse as B. B. King ("The Thrill is Gone"), Van Morrison ("Crazy Love"), and Jimi Hendrix ("Foxy Lady"). In each case, Manx takes the song and reinterprets it so that it becomes his own.
While performing with such western instruments as guitar, slide guitar, banjo, and harmonica, Manx also includes a contemporary instrument from India, the mohan veena. Invented only during the latter part of the last century, the veena can best be described as a cross between the Indian sitar and the slide guitar. The veena has a wide range of rich sounds that are exotic, mysterious, and intriguing. Over the years, Harry Manx has become proficient at weaving the sounds of the veena into his music.
This music can reach the listener at several levels. A disinterested listener will find the music pleasant and easy to include as background no matter what the activity. A listener with a more inquisitive bent will find aspects of the music intriguing and even exotic, worth turning up louder just to experience those little surprises that crop up from time to time. An aficionado will want to listen again and again and will most likely become an avid fan of the creativity of Harry Manx
Harry Manx is a very good singer. He's a talented musician, expert at the instruments he plays. He's a skilled lyricist who tells stories sure to hold the interest of his listeners. What really sets Manx apart, though, is the oblique angle from which he approaches his words, music, and performance, in the process carrying his audience into a very special world they may otherwise never have seen.
The best way to describe the songs on Wise and Otherwise is to have someone hear them and, unfortunately, I've not been able to locate some suitable clips online. I do recommend you give Harry Manx a listen, and it seems the best way to do that will be to beg, borrow, or buy the CD.
Anyone wanting more information about Harry Manx can find it at the NorthernBlues Music website or at his own website. If you're interested, you can read my previous review of the Harry Manx debut release, Dog My Cat, at the Sound Bytes archive.
Wise and Otherwise