Somewhere between the blues and electric guitar roots music, Harry Manx and Kevin Breit have been recording and performing for several decades now. While they have consistently released solo albums, this is their fourth album together. Strictly Whatever will be released May 24 on Canada’s Stony Plain label.
Harry Manx was born in the U.K. but now resides in British, Columbia, Canada. The biggest adventure of his life took place when he was a student of Indian artist Vishwa Mohan, who taught him to play an eastern instrument named after himself. The Mohan Veena is a 20 string instrument that is played like a lap steel guitar, but has more flexibility of tone. He also is proficient on the baritone guitar, from which he produces a wonderful sound, the lap slide guitar, and the banjo.
Kevin Breit, a resident of Elora, Ontario, is one of Canada’s best and most creative musicians. In addition to his solo work, he is a member of the folk group, Folkalarm and The Sisters Euclid, who produced a 2006 jazz fusion album of Neil Young material, titled Run Neil Run. He is proficient on the traditional electric guitar, electric sitar, uukelele, and mandolin.
Both Manx and Breit are competent songwriters and vocalists. They rotate the lead vocals on the album's nine original tracks, plus add a couple of duets together. Their styles mesh together well and their expertise on some unusual instruments makes for some interesting sounds and combinations. It is Manx’s baritone guitar that provides the main tone for the duo’s sound.
Two of the cover songs are among the albums finest performances. The old Bobby Hebb hit, “Sunny,” is propelled by Manx’s soulful vocal and the combination of their baritone and electric guitars, which unite to form one of the more alluring sounds I have heard in a long time. The old John Lee Hooker classic blues tune, “Mr. Lucky,” is given a nice and slow work-out.
“Nothing I Can Do” is a Breit composition and features his lead vocal and electric guitar runs. It has a shuffle boogie feel with some lead runs by Manx’s lap steel guitar. “Looking For A Brand New World” is a smooth and polished performance with more electric and lap steel guitar. “Hippy Trippy” is an instrumental track that looks back to the psychedelic music of the 1960s. “Once There Was A Girl” tells a nostalgic story of looking back at the path taken.
Harry Manx and Kevin Breit may not be household names, especially in The United States, but they have produced several albums of fine music. They are a good combination and Strictly Whatever is an album well worth exploring.