Rick Galusha's Pacific St. Blues and Americana

Since inception (1989), Pacific St. Blues & Americana strives to be a discerning voice helping roots fans sift through the mountains of music released every year. We are not for everyone; we want to engage active, critical listeners that hear beyond d'jour. Interviews include: Johnny Winter, Bill Wyman (Rolling Stones), Jerry Wexler, Tommy Shannon & Chris Layton, B.B. King, Dr. John, Robin Trower, Robben Ford, Mato Nanji, Joe Bonamassa, Harry Manx, Sue Foley, Marshall Chess, Billy Lee Riley, Charlie Louvin, Kim Richey, Radney Foster, Eric Johnson, David Clayton Thomas, Al Kooper, Phil Chen (Wired, Blow By Blow), Ian McLagan, Art Neville, Southside Johnny, Miami Steve Van Zant, Nils Lofgren, Bruce Iglauer, Charlie Musselwhite, Studebaker John, Chris Duarte, Smokin' Joe Kubeck, Hamilton Loomis, Peter Karp, Roomful of Blues, James Harman, Hadden Sayers, Malford Milligan, Melvin Taylor, Otis Taylor, Dave Alvin, Coco Montoya, Jimmy Thackery, Marsha Ball, Maria Muldaur, Shelby Lynne, Magic Dick & J. Geils, Lil' Milton, BuddyGuy, Aynsley Lister, Matt Schofield, Susan Tedeschi, Derek Trucks, Guy Clark, Joe Ely, James Cotton, Robin & Jesse Davey, Hugh Coltman (Hoax), Sean Kelly (Samples), John Entwistle (The Who), Mark Olson (Jayhawks), Walter Wolfman Washington, Anthony Gomes, Bob Malone, Chubby Carrier, Buckwheat Zydeco, Murali Coryell, David Jacob Strain, DeAnna Bogart, Michael Lee Firkins, Guy Davis, Jason Ricci, John Doe, Little Feat, Matt Woods, MikeZito, Peter Buffett, Ronnie Baker Brooks, Corky Siegel, Todd Park Mohr, Watermelon Slim, Magic Slim, Corey Harris,- - - - - - ------------------------Radio archives: http://www.kiwrblues.podomatic.com/. Playlists: http://www.omahablues.com/ Reviews featured in http://www.blueswax.com/. Email: KIWRblues@gmail.com Live online; Sundays 9 a.m. (-6 GMT) http://www.897theriver.com/

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Album Review: Harry Manx & Kevin Breit, In Good We Trust

Artists: Harry Manx & Kevin Breit
Title: In Good We Trust
Label: Stony Plain
Writer: Rick Galusha

Canadian Harry Manx is the kind of artist that blues purists love to loathe. On his first album, Dog My Cat, Manx explored a mixture of American blues using instruments from India including the 20 string mohan veena. Manx’s explorations would take the listener through cascading stringed textures and crevices where the music cast a haunting illumination twixt blues and a subcontinent wail. It was beautiful. By his second album, ‘Wise & Otherwise’ he continued to push the limits of the art with wondrous juxtaposition such as the song, ‘The Gist of Madhuvanti / The Thrill is Gone.’ During this period Manx played Omaha’s Indigenous Jam. One could have heard a pin drop during his main stage performance where thousands gathered in the tin shed. It was mysterious and intriguing.

His latest album, “In Good We Trust” is the second collaboration between Manx and fellow Canadian Kevin Breit; the first being, ‘Jubilee.’ In his own right Breit is a noted multi-instrumentalist playing with Norah Jone, k. d. Lang and Casssandra Wilson. While the album is still a refreshing blast of Manx’s sound, I find it more difficult to embrace as Manx’s art is compromised and less focused with poorly composed songs to platform their performances on. Opening the album is the cover of Bruce Springsteen’s, ‘I’m on Fire’ (Born in the USA). This is a calling card that songwriting plays a backseat on the album. I enjoy a well placed cover when the artist is adding something to the tune. In this instance Manx seems to be choosing the cover as a door for a mass audience raised on rock n’ roll but shifting towards retirement and the contemporary blues idiom. Sadly the song clunks with dull surprise.

On the title track Manx and Breit explore Muddy Water’s ‘I’m a Man’ riff using mandolin and ‘cigar box’ guitar. This tune may play well in a live setting but in my listening room it is lifeless and intentionally oblique; subsequently, far from interesting but, again, an easy calling card for the modern blues crowd looking for something to grab onto.

By the tenth track, ‘Don’t Swim, Float’ Manx and Breit come together for a jumpin’ bluesgrass-ish instrumental. The playing is quite capable as the artist exchange leads to n’ fro. One song doesn’t make an album – it justifies a download.

Manx’s skills are forthright and many of his previous albums are exemplary of a highly talented and creative musician exploring untested avenues of where the blues could be taken. On ‘In Good We Trust’ there are a couple of songs worthy of Manx’s catalogue while the rest of the album languishes without direction. If Manx ever visits, he is a must see artist but this album will live in the shadows of older, better albums by Manx.

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