Bread and Buddha
BREAD AND BUDDHA (2009)
Harry Manx’s life journey has taken him all over the map, both musically and literally. His ninth album, “Bread and Buddha”, is a musical meditation on the ephemeral nature of the human experience and is a culmination of thirty-five years of world exploration. Harry covers all four compass points of the world music map on this outing, from the rolling guitar groove on “Love is the Fire” and “Walking Ghost Blues”; he revisits traditional blues territory for the covers “Moon Goin’ Down” and “Long Black Veil” and blends in his trademark sensual raga flavours with “True to Yourself” and the instrumental “The Unspoken Quest”. Harry’s evolution as a songwriter shines trough in the wistful, heartfelt folk ballads, “Dew on Roses”, “Your Eyes Have Seen” and “Nine Summers Lost”.
Two years in the making, he has pulled out all the stops with the instrumentation on this outing, including ample use of piano, organ, and scored strings along with drums and bass. This gives the songs a lushness and maturity, much like a well-seasoned wine.
Juno nomination for “Blues Album of the Year”
Produced by Harry Manx
Engineered by John “Beetle” Bailey
Album Design by Michael Dangelmeier, Karo Design
Funding support by FACTOR
1. Nine Summers Lost 4:32
2. True to Yourself 4:34
3. Dew on Roses 3:35
4. Walking Ghost Blues 3:28
5. Your Eyes Have Seen 4:29
6. Humble Me 4:08
7. Moon Goin’ Down 4:16
8. Love is the Fire 3:11
9. Long Black Veil 3:55
10. The Unspoken Quest 2:47
Total Running Time: 38:25
“Canadian guitarist and singer-songwriter Harry Manx is an artist that critics have occasionally had a hard time getting their minds around. His unique amalgam of blues and other American roots music, classical Indian forms, and bits of rock, pop, and folk makes him difficult to pigeonhole, and self-appointed gatekeepers of those traditions sometimes bemoan his lack of purity, stubbornly missing the point. But Manx’s trip is really quite easy to grasp: He’s an accomplished and adventurous lap-slide guitarist – whether playing a National resonator, a solidbody lap-steel, a modified banjo or cigar-box guitar, or his signature 20-string Mohan Veena – and a compelling singer with a rich, warm, and soulful voice who writes intelligent and compassionate songs and puts them over with heartfelt conviction.
Manx is also a commanding live performer – as documented on his previous CD, Harry Manx & Friends Live at the Glenn Gould Studio – who routinely floors even new audiences (which is why Richie Havens has him open as many of his shows as possible).
Manx’s past work has ranged from relatively straight ahead folk-blues blended with Indian modalities and ornamentation to more experimental explorations of his personal East-West fusion – with lots of inventive covers of bluesmen from Muddy to Jimi along the way. The songs on Bread and Buddha build on that foundation, but the lyrics reflect greater maturity and the musical arrangements are more tightly focused and skilfully produced. Manx’s instrumental prowess remains evident throughout – but everything works to showcase the vocals and reinforce the songs. For example, the album opens with a ghostly slide line played on the National which is quickly overlaid with a more prominent National track that establishes a rootsy groove, and with the first words of “Nine Summers Lost” attention shifts to Manx’s voice – but the ghostly slide track persists throughout, adding subtle colors that are nearly subliminal at some points, but that you would miss immediately if they suddenly weren’t there.
The second song, “True to Yourself,” beautifully weds Manx’s slinky slide guitar and exotic Mohan Veena lines with a potent brew of bass, drums, organ, and piano, lightly infused with tabla beats and Samidha Joglekar’s sparkling Indian vocal accompaniment. That’s followed by “Dew on Roses,” a majestic ballad centered on the interplay of acoustic slide, National, and grand piano, with poetic lyrics that gracefully address difficult topics such as heartache and the impermanence of life.
Other gems include another thoughtful and introspective ballad (“Your Eyes Have Seen”), an earthy boogie-blues (“Walking Ghost Blues”), a Springsteen-esque rocker (“Love Is the Fire”), and an atmospheric Indian duet on which Manx plays Mohan Veena and tamboura and Joglekar contributes wordless vocals (“The Unspoken Quest”). My least favorite song is the string-driven “Humble Me,” a love ballad written by Manx’s long-time collaborator Kevin Breit and made popular by Norah Jones – a song that nonetheless has enough commercial appeal to make Manx a mega-star were it to find its way onto mainstream radio. Covers of Charley Patton’s “Moon Goin’ Down” and the country ballad “Long Black Veil” – originally made famous in 1959 by the great Lefty Frizzell – round out this superb recording. “
– Barry Cleveland, Guitar Player (online edition), Dec 2009
“This the most authentic melding of Blues, Folk and Asian music that I think I have ever heard and Harry Manx has created a gentle and thought provoking sound that cannot but point straight to the soul of man – if it isn’t genius then it isn’t far short. He plays predominantly in a Blues genre and this is the strength of the music – the other elements are slotted in as core components of the music and not for effect but they don’t dominate, they just allow his essential strengths to shine.
Manx’ s lap slide guitar is pure Blues but he works in some stunning picked National Steel guitar and with his throaty voice he really works in a fine Blues medium. On ‘Walking Ghost Blues’ for instance he sounds as though he was walking the hills of North Mississippi while the opener ‘Nine Summers Lost’ has an eerie space around the guitar and Clayton Dooley’s wailing (quietly) organ adding to the mood and atmosphere.
‘True To Yourself’ is an outstanding number with Manx playing the Mohan Veena – a sitar-esque 20 string guitar-bodied marvel – and Ravi Naimpally delivering classical Hindustani vocal alongside Tabla; the whole thing simply sent shivers down my spine.
The songs all tell a story or illuminate a mood and track after track simply reiterate this man’s quality of writing, playing or simply performing.
I am actually annoyed that I haven’t discovered Harry Manx sooner but I will be rectifying the situation in a hurry – something you can’t accuse Harry Manx of.”
– Andy Snipper, music-news.com, Oct 2009
“ … Manx is blessed with a breathy voice that is both evocative and soothing, perfectly suited to the laid back feel that pervades this album. Opener Nine Summers Lost is deep in Ry Cooder territory, no bad thing, but still retains a vibe that makes it unmistakably Manx. We get our first taste of the Mohan Veena on True To Yourself. The Eastern influences prevalent in the ethereal backing vocals of Samidha Joglekar and that beautiful mystical sound produced by the Mohan Veena.
This is a vibe album. A weekend treat to relax to, the perfect antidote to the working week. There are no duds on here at all. Your Eyes Have Seen is a particularly brilliant track. The excellent and delicate slide guitar plays nicely alongside the bittersweet, downbeat even, lyrics.
Even if you’re not a blues fan, the songs on here are strong enough to enthrall. It reminds me a lot of the great slide players like Kelly Joe Phelps and Johnny Dickinson, but there is also a feel of ‘Local Hero’ era Mark Knopfler. This is a great album, confident and endearing from a musician that really should be better known than he is.
– The Music Critic, Independent Music Reviews (UK), Oct 2009
“The ever-restless Manx, a world traveler now based on British Columbia’s Salt Spring Island (an artistic haven of sorts), blends blues and folk with exotic strains of Indian classical music to stunning effect.
Manx is a deeply spiritual artist, and material reflects his quest for deeper meaning. His lyrics can be a bit cryptic at times, but he’s dealing with big stuff – life, love, and our place in the world. Covers include a stunning reading of “Long Black Veil” (a tune previously recorded by Manx for “Johnny’s Blues,” a compilation celebrating the late Johnny Cash), and the hushed reverence of Kevin Breit’s “Humble Me,” best known for Norah Jones’ version.
Manx seems to be moving away from the blues a bit with this outing. Charlie Patton’s “Moon Going Down” is given a gently simmering reading powered by subtle but soulful organ. But harmonica is absent altogether, and despite its title, the almost-apocalyptic “Walking Ghost Blues” isn’t a typical twelve-bar. Eastern influences (Manx studied for several years in India with the inventor of the Mohan Veena) are most prominent in the haunting “True To Yourself” and “The Unspoken Quest,” both featuring classical Indian vocals from Samidha Joglekar, and Manx’s own compositions lean to minor-key folky foundations. Somewhat out of place among the primarily gentle and contemplative fare is the rocky “Love Is the Fire,” one of only two tracks to feature Simon Godin’s electric guitar.
With each recording, Manx seems to be marking a point in an ongoing quest for deeper meaning. Bread And Buddha (the man loves his puns, as other titles in his discography attest) is a fascinating, often lovely, and genuinely moving glimpse into a soul more concerned with spiritual health than with amassing wealth. Recommended!”
– John Taylor, Blogcritics.org, Oct 2009