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Harry Manx & Kevin Breit nov.29-30 Brampton, ON


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Harry Manx & Kevin Breit

November 29, 2007 - Rose Theatre, Brampton, ON

November 30, 2007 - Showplace Theatre, Peterborough, ON

Show Review

By Kevin O'Neill


Amidst respectively busy touring and recording schedules, Harry Manx and Kevin Breit made time to play about 10 gigs together in November and December of 2007, mainly in Ontario and Quebec. Originally booked and promoted as solo dates for Manx, the addition of Breit to the bill was enough to encourage myself and others to travel those extra hours in order to bear witness to this soulful collaboration. Manx and Breit have released two albums together thus far: 2003’s Jubilee (Nothern Blues) won critical acclaim and was nominated for two Juno awards; and 2007’s In Good We Trust (Stoney Plain) followed along equally successful lines, being recently shortlisted for a Grammy award nomination.

These two nights of music hit me in the soul. Harry Manx’s music takes me to a place where no one else’s quite does. His tone, his phrasing, his instrumentation, his lyrics, the pace he sets – the musical air about him in general – it all points to someone who has seen a lot of places, felt pain, learned to endure and has ultimately found cool resolution and peace. Or at least that’s the journey that Manx’s music offers to listeners. Kevin Breit, a master on most all stringed instruments, can be equally as soulful as he is innovative. His role at these shows was one of driving virtuosic beauty – playing solos and fills that were patiently laid down, melodic and deliciously challenging. The look of astonishment was evident even on Manx’s face on several occasions as Breit wrapped up one mind boggling solo after another with his arsenal of guitars, electric mandolins and banjos. Which is not to say he stole the show nor overstepped his boundaries; Breit provides the perfect compliment in most any situation. Manx, variously rotating between his Mohan Veena (a rare 20-stringed Indian slide guitar), cigar box banjo, banjitar, dobro and a crash cymbal foot pedal, seemed to be in control of the set list and the general flow of the evening(s).

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In Brampton, Manx & Breit played to a crowd of about 50, seated at close proximity around small cocktail tables at eye level. It was an intimate performance, and by the end of the encore the crowd was dazzled and absolutely floating. The following night’s show was at the Showplace Theatre in Peterborough - a venue Manx generally visits once every year as part of the ‘Folk Under The Clock’ series. The larger venue and larger crowd (about 500) made for a different experience from Brantford’s tiny venue; less intimate perhaps, but louder and more adventurous in the playing. The second set in Peterborough blew all others away, in part thanks to surprise guest harp player Carlos Del Junco. Del Junco’s appearance for the first three songs of the set was jaw-dropping. The first tune, Breit’s “Itchy Knees & Elbows,” is one that appears on Jubilee as well as on Del Junco’s Blues Mongrel (in which Breit sits in). “Bring That Thing” was played in a dirty, heavy blues style; and JJ Cale’s “Tijuana” saw Del Junco take on a massive solo in an Indian musical scale, the likes of which you can bet no other harp player would be willing to attempt. A few other musical highlights worth mentioning:

  1. Breit’s unforgettable mandolin on “Swim Don’t Float” (Brantford) and ‘Take This Hammer’ (Peterborough);
  2. Manx pushing Breit to play harder and darker on “Death Have Mercy”; Kevin in turn messing with looping pedals to pleasant effect;
  3. The emotion of “I’m On Fire”, “Coat Of Mail”, “A Single Spark”;
  4. Kevin Breit’s slide guitar on “Sometimes”;
  5. Raga Gujari Todi as the encore in Peterborough, not only for its musical merit but for the simple display of unpredictability.

It brings no discomfort to this reviewer to say that these two nights were certainly among the best performances seen in 2007. It just doesn’t get much better than watching these two incredible musicians perform together, and I will certainly be there when it happens next.

November 29, 2007 - Rose Theatre, Brampton, ON

I: Ruben's Train, Only Then Will Your House Be Blessed, Bring That Thing, Down The Dirt Road, Take This Hammer, Voodoo Chile, In Good We Trust, I'm On Fire

II: Sometimes, Death Have Mercy, Bottom of the Hill, Tijuana, Good Time Charlie's Got The Blues, A Single Spark, Swim Don't Float, Coat of Mail

E: Crazy Love*

November 30, 2007 - Showplace Theatre, Peterborough, ON

I: Ruben's Train, Only Then Will Your House Be Blessed, Down The Dirt Road, Take This Hammer, Voodoo Chile, Sometimes, In Good We Trust

II: Itchy Knees & Elbows**, Bring That Thing**, Tijuana**, Death Have Mercy, I'm On Fire, Coat of Mail, Good Time Charlie's Got The Blues, ?

E: Raga Gujari Todi

* Manx solo

** w/ Carlos Del Junco on harp

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