|In Southern California, where I live, the freeways are as clogged as a certain
vice-president's arteries. Every second car is an SUV - semi-armored vehicle - with a nameplate that says Hummer,
Land Rover, or Ford Explorer. I recently saw a Rover sporting optional rhino-guards. In such steering-wheel-slamming,
horn-bonking madness, it's a sane idea to stick with car music that doesn't fry the nerves.
Which brings us to Jubilee, the Harry Manx and Kevin Breit collaboration on the NorthernBlues imprint. In the short time this Canadian label has been around, NorthernBlues has consistently come up with interesting, distinctive artists not guilty of putting out what the folks at the Fat Possum label call "the same old blues shit." Manx, an Isle of Man native who lives in Asia for years before settling in Canada, is particularly fascinating, having studied stringed instruments under Indian gurus. He's as likely to play a mohan veehna as a National Steel guitar. Think of him as the Ry Cooder of the North.
Manx pairs with Kevin Breit, a quasi-folk guitarist with punkish leanings. Their 14-track, 50-minute disc is just the two of them plucking away at various electric, acoustic and resonator guitars, Manx's Indian instruments, plus mandocello and banjo, with Breit blowing harmonica as well. The song mix includes a bit of everything -- Sleepy John Estes' 'Diving Duck Blues,' Jimi Hendrix's 'Voodoo Child (Slight Return),' Danny O'Keefe's likable 'Good Time Charlie's Got The Blues,' along with a couple of traditionals ('Take This Hammer') and some originals, including a seven-minute Manx tune oddly called 'Weary and you Run.' There's even a nice version of that annoying old Doobie Brothers song 'Taking It to the Streets,' a small triumph in itself.
That Manx and Breit can put such a mix of materials together, make it consistently interesting, and throw in some surprises is no small feat. The disc makes a good soundtrack for bad moments, whether on the Hollywood Freeway, the Long Island Expressway, or most places in between.
"Manx, an Isle of Man native who lives in Asia for years before settling in Canada, is
particularly fascinating, having studied stringed instruments under Indian gurus. He's as likely to play a mohan veehna as a National Steel guitar. Think of him as the Ry Cooder
of the North."