What is it about a blues man?
He seems to have a laid back, comfortable, almost folksy way of talking: yet one soon senses the passion, the wealth of life experiences and the powerful sense of humour hovering just beneath this easy-going surface.
And when a blues man actually picks up his guitar, strums that first chord, and starts to sing, well, like another guitarist once told me, “The blues, the blues is life.”
One of Canada’s greatest blues men is coming to the St. Lawrence Acoustic Stage on Saturday, March 7, at 7 p.m. Harry Manx, known to many as the “Mysticssippi” blues man, the artist who has built a bridge linking the music of East and West, is performing an intimate concert right here in Morrisburg. And fans are clearly overjoyed. Currently, Manx’s concert is sold out, although there is a waiting list.
Harry Manx has dozens of awards and award nominations to his name. He’s a prolific blues artist whose 14th album in 14 years, 20 Strings and Truth, was just released on February 10, 2015.
Manx’s blues style is absolutely unique. He started in the blues clubs of Toronto, playing the slide guitar. Eventually, he studied a number of years with Vishwa Mohan Bhatt, the Indian master who invented the 20 stringed Mohan Veena, now the signature instrument of Harry Manx. Manx’s blending of two disparate approaches to music has resulted in an unrivalled sound, one that deeply appeals to Manx’s legions of fans, and to critics alike.
“What comes out of us musically is what we put into it,” Manx said. “I like many forms of music, but the two styles that make up my true passion are blues and West Indian. Perhaps I might be forcing that relationship,” he laughed, “but I look for the common ground between the two, and I bring them together when I write. The combination of the two seems to really intrigue people. Exotic sound, I suppose you could say.”
Although he was born on the Isle of Man, Manx immigrated to Canada when he was a child. Music took hold of him early on. “It was a kind of intuitive pull,” he said. “I knew even as a child that music was drawing me in. When you pursue music, I believe the whole world opens up to you, and takes you to a lot of places. Of course, I love to travel.” Then he paused and added with a laugh, “Almost as much as I love music. Maybe I took up music just for the opportunity to travel.”
Manx is often described as a definitive Canadian artist. “Like most kids, I grew up with exposure to Canadian music. Gordon Lightfoot was, and still is, a big hero to me. I would say that a kind of Canadian veneer has crept into my music. I find it in my attraction to certain rhythmic styles and notes: that is the Canadiana effect.”
“It’s an interesting thing. You can always hear the musician in the music. When he performs, an artist always tells you something about his nature. His music becomes an insightful tour into the soul of that artist. All his experiences, everything that makes him unique, it’s all revealed the moment he picks up his guitar.”
An intense connection with his listeners lies at the heart of Harry Manx’s music.
“I have a goal to inspire people with my words. I write music in the language of the heart. Emotions and life situations interest me. And I always write of things that actually have had an impact on me: I’m not a fiction writer.”
His twelve years living in India, learning to meditate, studying Eastern music, have coloured his compositions. “When I write, I have to keep my music and words separate. I write poetry, then find the music and marry the two, like two hearts beating as one. You might say I take the maple syrup of words, distill it and find the essence of my song. Performing music is what I fit at, and what feels right. That keeps the passion alive for me. And over the years, touring has helped me get better at my art, I believe. I feel good about how I’m playing now.” He did share one anecdote about those long months on tour, separated from his wife and child.
“I once received this email from my wife saying ‘Don’t forget to miss me.’” He paused. “Never have decided whether that was affection or a threat,” he laughed. “But it did lead me to a song I called Don’t Forget to Miss Me that has become very popular.”
Fans are going to be very glad not to “miss” the Morrisburg concert by the incomparable Harry Manx.
The board of the directors of the SLAS has received some big news. Scotiabank Morrisburg, is partnering with the Stage at the Manx concert March 7, to help with a fund raising event for the Stage. “Bank staff will be present at the show collecting donations for us both before the show and during intermission. Everything collected from the audience members will be matched by the branch,” said board member, Sandra Whitworth. “We’re very excited about this opportunity and very grateful to Scotiabank Morrisburg for offering to support our not-for-profit music series this way.”