Harry Manx: the blues on four wheels

Quebec That night, Harry Manx spent it in Quebec City, lying in his van. It is not the result of bad luck: it is thus, alone in his vehicle, that he plays the asphalt swallowers to make his new tour in the province, with stops as diverse as Carleton 24 April), Rimouski (25), Sept-Îles (27) and Saint-Irenee (29).

Prior to heading for Gaspé, the adoptive Canadian, based in Salt Spring Island on the West Coast, made a stop at the Sun to discuss his solo concert series and his new album, Faith Lift , where he Reviews his pieces surrounded by a string quartet.

“I’m home on the road,” he said, “showing us his van. You see, there is a thermostat here and there are solar panels on the roof, for the light. It took me a few months to build that, but the insulation is excellent, we’re really warm … ”

Everything is there, gas stoves to cook at the chest of drawers, space for instruments and albums with decorations evoking India, where Manx spent a lot of time, notably learning how to handle the Mohan Veena, This instrument with twenty strings, sort of cross between the guitar slide and the sitar.

The Road to Meditation

This mini mobile-home, which resembles a delivery car, made in height and without window, assures him of being incognito when he wants to spend a quiet night. Manx has experience in this field, since it is not his first vehicle of its kind: he had a converted bread delivery truck and refurbished school buses, in Canada or in Europe. Do not complain! From the age of 62, Manx loves to go solo. He does not even listen to music, finding in experience a great freedom, as well as a quietude close to meditation. As proof, at the end of the tour which counts a dozen dates, it will roll over 5000 kilometers to return to Vancouver …

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“I like this lifestyle. When you travel, you get tired of restaurants and hotels. You want to be at home and for me, it’s a kind of house. […] When I have shows, I often get hotels, I go to take a shower and watch TV, and then I go to the house [which is the wagon]! ”

An inspiring wedding

This tour, scheduled for about a year and a half, comes when Manx launches his fifteenth album. Faith Lift is the occasion for him to revisit different key songs from his repertoire, blues and world, with a string quartet. To these 11 new versions, is added a new cover of Love and Happiness , by Al Green. An idea that came to him when he renewed his wedding vows …

“I married my wife after 20 years – it was 2 years ago – and there was a small celebration during which music was playing,” says Manx, making us promise not to write The anecdote in French, so as not to get into trouble with his wife …

“One of those pieces was Love and Happiness ,” he continues . We were in this ceremony, but I kept listening to this song and while I was putting on his wedding ring, I said to myself “but it’s a really cool song, maybe I should play it!”

It was his long-time accomplice, Clayton Doley, who gave Manx the task of making arrangements, whether original titles or covers. He was so charmed by the result that he believes his next recording could also involve a string quartet.

“It’s as if life was breathing again in these rooms,” he says. Someone wrote that I had made them a facelift , I had not seen it like that, but it’s pretty true. When you play with strings, it’s like you have wings. ”

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From Rush to Strings

One of Manx’s worries was that the strings provided the melodic lines and even the solos. For him, who was listening, it was clear that the quartet could improvise the solos, but he realized that the culture of classical musicians was not the same as his own and that it was preferable That everything be written. So he made sure that was the case and he was absolutely delighted with the result. Manx will perform with the Esca quartet in Laval (May 2), and then plans to return to the province in the fall for a new series of concerts with the ensemble, with a stop in Quebec City.

“This adventure is pretty amazing for me, because I was a stage technician for Rush, so I come from far away! I started as a technician in the middle of sound. I worked for a band, Crowbar, Toronto, then Chilliwack, then Rush. After that, I worked at a club and that’s when I heard a lot of blues – we got Willie Dixon, Muddy Waters – and that’s where the idea of ​​playing the blues started to sound like a ‘ Impose for me. ”

Prophet in his country
Harry Manx was born in the Isle of Man, England, but remained there until he was five years old, his parents heading for Canada. Residents of the island have heard of his work and they have not only welcomed him with open arms some time ago but have arranged to return this year in the fall. Manx plans to perform with the only string quartet on the island … if it’s available that night! “A promoter had contacted me saying” if you are a Manx, you must come from the island, so is this the case? Can you come play? “I went, the word happened and people who knew my parents and grandparents all came to the show, it was fantastic, the musician recalls. After the first song, Is up and shouted “Welcome home, Harry!” Everyone started applauding and I was crying. It’s been 50 years since I left … ”