One for the Road

Harry Manx - Road Ragas
Harry Manx – Road Ragas
Harry Manx

Road Ragas (Salt Spring Island, Canada, 2003)

I have found that there is
little safety to be found from paint by number artists even in the world music or folk roots genres. Fortunately,
Harry Manx doesn’t paint by numbers and instead, he boldly leaps into the unknown. Equally at home in an
ashram or performing on a blues stage, he is the first musician that I have encountered who plays a raga (The
Gist of Madhuvanti) on a 6 string banjo and then classic blues on a Mohan Veena. Harry gives his listening
audience an earful of soulful blues which is evident on his live recording, Road Ragas.

Then again, you can’t contain some folks in a box. Among us, exist prodigal sons and daughters who flee
abroad to a foreign locale before the heavy weight of adulthood catches up to them and they busk for a living in
these far off places. A lot of folk or blues musicians get discovered this way, Harry on the other hand,
discovered himself in Europe, Japan and in India. In India, he succumbed to the temptations of the Indian way
of life and spent five years studying the Mohan Veena from the master and inventor of the instrument Vishwa
Mohan Bhatt. Eventually, Harry reinvented the blues while acquiring classical Indian flavoring to spice his
repertoire. Road Ragas distills the Canadian blues musician’s travels, life experiences and musical inventions into
transcendental blues. Harry who resembles a bohemian sage with his goatee and serene disposition, wheels
out traditional tunes from the American South including, Take this Hammer (he’s backed by the gospel choir,
Heavenly Lights), Sitting on the Top of the World, Reuben’s Train (which he performs on a Mohan Veena)
and he pays tribute to Willie Dixon (Spoonful) and Riley King (The Thrill is Gone). Among his favorite blues
classics, are original songs from his other recordings, including Wise and Otherwise, including, Bring the
Thing, Don’t Forget to Miss Me, Coat of Mail, Nat Bhariau, Sunday Morning Ascension (about the death of a
friend) and the love song, Lay Down My Worries.

Road Ragas goes beyond providing insightful cathartic moments that are normally associated with the blues
and instead the musical moments here allow us to transcend our troubles. Similar to an Indian raga, these
songs, delivered with a lot of soul would cause anyone’s heart to swell with universal love. But you need to ask
yourself if you are ready to soar above the mundane and sprout wings.