Listen Up: Wednesday, April 05, 2006
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A D V E R T I S E M E N T
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
Harry Manx

Mantras for Madmen (Dog My Cat Records)

By Tom Geddie

Henry Manx’s Mantras for Madmen gently wraps itself around you and holds on with its mix of blues, classical Indian ragas, and often poetic lyrics that explore the human condition with just enough distance that the disc never becomes overly sentimental.

Born on the Isle of Man, raised in British Columbia, and having lived in Europe, Japan, India, and Brazil, Manx has played hundreds of street corners, cafés, bars, and festivals. He also spent five years studying music with Vishwa Mohan Bhatt, who won a Grammy a few years ago with Ry Cooder for A Meeting by the River.

Manx says the blues is like the earth and Indian music like heaven, and he blends the two forms seamlessly. He achieves heaven via a 20-string hybrid guitar/sitar called a Mohan Veena. To its echoing twang, Manx adds six-string guitar, lap slide, banjo, and tamboura, plus mandolin, percussion, harmonica, bass, and backing vocals.

Mantras for Madmen, his sixth c.d. in six years, follows West Eats Meet. Produced by Jordy Sharp, the disc took top honors at the Canadian Folk Music Awards for album and producer. With Manx here again, Sharp has crafted a contemplative but never cloying collection of 10 originals (including two instrumentals) and interpretations of J. J. Cale’s “San Diego-Tijuana” and Robbie Robertson’s “It Makes No Difference.”

In his unique, somewhat hoarse but smooth voice, Manx sings about the tears that form when sweet memories mingle (Robertson’s song), about reasons for sleepless nights (“The Point of Purchase”), about realization and perseverance (“Never the Twain”), and about a gentle soul’s quest and death (“Don’t Take His Name Away”).

Manx’s willingness to stretch — without ever breaking — the traditional boundaries of the blues makes Mantras for Madmen a welcome addition to the modern incarnation of the genre.


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