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Looking Back

7 May 2012 | 9:43 pm | Michael Smith

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I'm playing tunes from all those CDs basically and I'm working on a CD – which will come out later this year – and that will be an instrumental one,” Harry Manx explains, on the line from his home on Salt Spring Island, British Columbia. “I've been thinking about that for a long time – people have asked me for that – so I'm gonna put out something that's something you can kick back, listen to and won't have any words. They get in the way,” he laughs.

Born on the Isle Of Man but leaving for Canada with his parents when he was six, Manx spent many years travelling, first to Japan, where lived and performed for a decade, then India, after hearing the Mohan veena, a sort of cross between a western slide guitar and a sitar that has become a cornerstone of his musical style, which he studied with the instrument's creator. He finally returned to Canada and established himself as a singer/songwriter playing a fusion of Delta blues and Indian ragas he's dubbed Mysticssippi. Releasing his first album, Dog My Cat, in 2001, Manx has put out an album a year since, releasing a compilation, titled Isle Of Manx, last year, which he's now taking the opportunity to tour around Australia.

“I actually didn't have confidence in compiling that myself. I gave that task to my partner and he picked the songs out and he sort of painted a picture of my progress I guess with the tunes he picked. [Songwriting] gets a little easier to do if you do it a lot I've noticed. It's a bit like a muscle that needs exercising and it became a little easier to do in the last few years, but nonetheless it's always a challenge, you know? You're never really sure where you find your muse – it usually finds you – that's what happens for me. A song will pop out in the middle of the night or while I'm working on something else; suddenly a song shows up. So I try and stay open to it. I'm fortunate that I haven't felt ever like I've run out of songs; they keep coming and I'm just wondering if I should sort of give a little space to tunes with less words and that's where the idea of the instrumental CD came up. Let me just see what I can say without words.”

Manx spent much of last year touring a third collaborative album, Strictly Whatever, he'd done with guitarist Kevin Breit, who's currently playing with Bruce Springsteen and actor-turned-bluesman Hugh Laurie, as well as veteran soulman Richie Havens and American guitarist David Lindley.

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“Somebody gave Richie my CD and he got really into it and kept talking to his manager and she eventually phoned me and invited me to New York because he wanted to meet me. So I followed through on that and ended up touring with Richie and we became good friends along the way. David I'd met at a couple of festivals and the people at the festivals always seemed to want to get us together, so that happened a couple of times and it was always easy to have a musical conversation. But there was one guy in British Columbia, a promoter whose wife had passed away – her two favourite artists that he had had there had been me and David – so he asked us if we'd do a kind of memorial concert for her and then we thought we'd see if we could take this out on the road together.”