Katoomba RSL, July 31
If the aim is to distil art down to some sort of essence, then Harry Manx has already reached the end point. Who else could cover songs by George Gershwin, Bruce Springsteen, John Coltrane and Jimi Hendrix and make them all sound like they were written by the same person? But then Manx is the man who had already married Hindustani music to the blues and created a bastard progeny that weeps in quarter-tones.
Perhaps the wonder of Manx is that he sustains such audience interest when so little changes. The range of his gruffly warm baritone is minimal, as is the variation in tempo, rhythm, texture and mood as he accompanies himself on guitar and Mohan veena (the 20-string Indian instrument he has made his own). And yet within these narrow confines he certainly weaves a spell that is partly attributable to his glistening slide playing and partly to the honesty and absence of artifice.
The Canadian did expand the options by once again using local organist Clayton Doley and by using a decent-sounding drum machine. The latter, however, was over-used, emphasising the rhythmic similarity between songs, when several, including his Don’t Forget To Miss Me, would have been much happier without it.
Doley was a different matter. He could be subdued enough to maintain the illusion of folksy acoustic music (despite the drums), or shred Hendrix’s Voodoo Chile with an appropriately frenzied solo.
Manx’s presentation is so relaxed and dryly amusing it could be happening beer-in-hand on your back porch, yet he is a deceptively fine guitarist, and the flashes of an exotic Hindustani scale were applied with the deftness of an expert chef spicing a dish. The Mohan veena – a 3-string slide guitar with five drone strings and 12 sympathetic strings – brought fresh implications to Spoonful and Crazy Love. The version of Coltrane’s A Love Supreme, meanwhile, sounded rather like how the Doors may have played it had they tried, with cascading electric piano.
Harry Manx: August 23, Lizotte’s, Dee Why; August 30, Bulli Heritage Hotel; August 31, The Basement.