|Harry Manz has been studying his craft for so long that his sophomore effort,
'Wise and Otherwise',
justly sounds like the work of a seasoned artist, with songs that possess the depth and vision of a mature songwriter.
Manx has toured for the past 25 years as a solo act, playing slide guitar, banjo, harmonica, and the mohan veena,
a 20-stringed instrument invented by Indian musician Vishwa Mohan Bhatt.
Like Kelly Joe Phelps - whose voice and approach Manx recalls - the UK native and Canadian resident favors playing alone and writes hauntingly beautiful music that wraps around your soul. All that traveling and the five years Manx studied with Bhatt resonate throughout the 12 tracks. The old gospel tune "Only Then Will Your House Be Blessed" opens with Manx accompanying himself on slide guitar and harmonica; it's an uplifting track that would have made a fine addition to the 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' soundtrack. The veena gives "Death Have Mercy" a strange blend of Eastern and Western traditions, an approach underscored on "The Gist of Madhuvanti/The Thrill is Gone" when Manx melds an original tune with the most popular song in BB King's repertoire. The same exotic blend permeates 'Roses Given,' about the trials of love. A self-penned highlight is 'Coat of Mail,' reportedly inspired by Manx finding a friend he hadn't seen in decades panhandling on the street.
Manx covers a pair of popular songs in Van Morrison's "Crazy Love" and Jimi Hendrix's "Foxy Lady," doing a memorable take on the former and completely transforming the latter. In the end, 'Wise and Otherwise' achieves what great albums do: It takes you on a journey, and one well worth taking. It's a fine successor to Manx's equally compelling debut, 2001's 'Dog My Cat'.
"Like Kelly Joe Phelps - whose voice and approach Manx recalls - the UK native and Canadian resident favors playing alone and writes hauntingly
beautiful music that wraps around your soul."