Harry Manx has wasted little time in getting out a follow-up to his debut album, the acclaimed "Dog My Cat." Having said that, his latest offering ("Wise and Otherwise") did take twice as long to record: 20 hours instead of 10! This is attributable to the need for overdubbing, since Manx has integrated the mohan veena much more into the arrangements this time around.
The album opens with an excellent version of John B. Spencer's "Only Then Will Your House Be Blessed." Manx shows himself to be an accomplished lap-slide guitarist and singer (he also plays unamplified harp on this one too). The vocals sound a bit like vintage Van Morrison, and coincidentally, one of the covers is a version of Morrison's "Crazy Love." I would lay a wager that it has not been played on mohan veena before, however.
Those who were anticipating the use of the mohan veena only need to wait until the second track, "Death Have Mercy." It soon becomes obvious that when Manx plays, he is always trying to capture a bluesy feeling. Irrespective of which instrument he plays he always manages to carry it off very convincingly. Few, if any, people would even have considered combining banjo and mohan veena (and harp) on "The Thrill is Gone"--which was actually written by Roy Hawkins, rather than B.B. King as the liner notes suggest. Manx does it, however, and it works really well, segued onto the back of a short original piece "The Gist of Madhuvanti."
As well as being something of a virtuoso musician, Manx is also a highly talented songwriter. He has a sharp eye for detail in human relationships of all sorts. This shines through on songs like "Roses Given," "Coat of Mail," and the touching "Don't Forget To Miss Me" which gets its title from the way that Harry's wife always signs off her letters when he is away traveling the world.
Manx adds new musical slants to the aforementioned "Crazy Love," and Jim Hendrix's "Foxy Lady" (played on the mohan veena!), before closing proceedings with a trio of original tunes. After the irony of "Makes You Wanna Die Laughing" and the excellent "Tethered Dogs," he closes the album with an original raga, "Raga Nat Bhariav."
"Wise and Otherwise" builds on the solid foundation of "Dog My Cat," and can only increase Manx's standing. Anyone who likes something a little different from their acoustic blues will find plenty here to admire. Coupling Manx's relaxed approach to the music with his musical talents all adds up to make "Wise and Otherwise" a terrific album that should help to establish Harry Manx's place in the grander scheme of things.
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