Harry Manx has a Canada 150 show at Koerner Hall on Feb. 3 and it will debut a new touring ensemble. Faith Lift is the new CD to go along with the tour. It is quite a departure from his usual sound in that he is accompanied by a string quartet. On the recording it is members of the Sydney Opera House Strings but at Koerner, it will be the Dévah Quartet (plus Kevin Breit, Davide Di Lorenzo & Clayton Doley). The album can be seen as a kind of career summary, the songs mostly drawn from earlier albums – after years of performing them he has reached a place where he felt a face lift was warranted. The instrumental colours the string quartet adds gives these songs an entirely new dimension. Clayton Doley makes his debut as an arranger, basing the charts on the organ parts that he too has often played but in some cases, particularly on “Baby, Please Don’t Go/Help Me”, he stretches out dramatically, and effectively. Manx plays guitar, banjo and/or mohan veena and adds an overdubbed vocal & harmonica. “Moon Going Down” is taken a little faster than the version on Bread And Buddha, with Manx playing guitar & banjo and a little harmonica, before the strings join in quietly. He adds some bottleneck guitar that heightens the contrast with the strings. “Death Have Mercy”, first on Wise and Otherwise, has a vocal that shows how traditional songs improve with age. He plays the mohan veena and uses the song as the soundtrack to a video clip on his facebook page, a street scene sequence labelled ‘From India With Love’.

“Working On A Railroad” is another traditional song that Manx transforms, but even with the strings, the original intent of the song is not lost. Longtime favourite originals like “Coat Of Mail” and “Point Of Purchase” are just lovely here. “Love And Happiness” may well have been performed live over the years but does not seem to have made it to disc yet. It certainly belongs here. Manx feels these songs represent his life’s journey to find his own sound. His goal was always to combine East & West and the performances here show that he has succeeded in forming a seamless whole. The Koerner Hall date is part of a long, and long overdue, tour of Eastern Canada. Go to www.harrymanx.com for more dates.

John’s Blues Picks February 2017 – Matt Minglewood
John’s Blues Picks January 2016 – Holly Hyatt & Jon Burden