Thursday, January 26, 2006

Harry Manx

I meant to write up a bit about the concert last week with Harry Manx.

Lloyd Thayer, a local performer, opened (or co-billed) with Harry. Lloyd is a great blues player, and he plays lap-style guitar (not, he's quick to point out, the armpit geetars we all play.) Lloyd is a real character and a great performer. I love his sense of humor, and he has great stories that he tells between songs (some go on for a fair while!) I always enjoy his shows; great slide work and his voice works well for the blues.

Lloyd teaches some classes at The Passim School of Music (just upstairs from the club!) as well as at The Music Emporium. Check out his website for some Dobro info and other interesting tidbits.

(In the interests of full disclosure, I also took one of his lap-guitar classes.) I’m still hopeless, but that’s not his fault!

On to Harry, who I didn’t even know anything about prior to the show (I went because Lloyd was playing.) Harry is Canadian, and has quite a sense of humor too; when asked if he had a mailing list sign-up he said ‘No, but just tell people to check out my website; www eric clapton dot com.”

Harry released his first CD back in 2000, and has won several Canadian awards for best blues record (one of which, even came with a trophy...but that’s a long story.) It’s unclear what Harry was doing prior to that; he's well into middle age so he must have been doing something. He did say that he spent five years at VM Bhatt’s house, learning to play the Mohan Veena.

I’ve already written about the Mohan Veena, a 20 (or 19?) string cross between a sitar and a guitar that’s played lap-style. He also plays a Taylor and a Martin six-string, and broke out a banjo for one number.

He says that he plays exclussively in open D; DADF#AD from the bass end, though sometimes he'll drop the F# down to F to give a Dm tuning. I didn’t get a chance to ask him, but I have to wonder if he isn’t using a special kind of pick that’s doing something to the bass because the bass strings really thudded and sounded to me like they were an octave lower than the normal bass strings on a guitar.

Steven King uses this technique to get extra bass from the 5th and 6th strings.

Harry was accompanied by ‘South Side Steve’ (don’t know his last name) a young guy that plays Hamonica and is “not too bad for a guy from Ottawa” according to Harry. Steve definitely knows how to play, and provided a real soul to Harry’s songs. I was most intrigued by an effect he got where the harmonica sounded almost like a Hammond organ. Turns out he was using a POD effects box and running the harmonica through the Leslie speaker effect. Pretty cool.

Amongst the many great songs, I particularly liked the performance of Baby Please Don’t Go which took the song in a slightly different direction to how I've heard it before.

But as Harry said, “the blues is not about feeling bad; it’s about making other people feel bad,” and if you like the blues, I think you’ll like Harry. His playing brings a different variety to the music, and his instruments – especially the Mohan Veena – adds new colors to the sound. He even played a bit of banjo “to torture us a bit” though he played it much like it was a guitar, and it almost sounded more like a guitar than a banjo (I even wondered if he was playing it in a guitar tuning.)

A great show, and I definitely recommend checking Harry out.

Another piece of stage patter: Steve, the Harmonica player, during a moment that Harry was adjusting his guitar, related how they had been in New York and seen a flyer for a band that was playing at some bar. The band’s name was ‘Hard to Make a Living,’ and somewhat prophetically, underneath it read ‘No Cover Charge.’

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