Even if Harry Manx and Kevin Breit weren’t two of the best guitar players on the planet, a recorded collaboration between the pair of them would be news.
With their brand-new debut album for Stony Plain, the pair of them have created “In Good We Trust,” a collection of 11 songs that ooze sensuality, dark blues, playful humour, and astonishing instrumental virtuosity. Add vocals that connect instantly with listeners, and you have a joyful CD that will delight roots music — and world music — enthusiasts and adventurous radio programmers alike.
From a Bruce Springsteen cover song (and played on a guitar Manx built out of a cigar box)* to the traditional “Death Have Mercy” through to the rollicking “Don’t Swim, Float” and the slow groove of the title track, this a CD touches the heart, the feet, the brain and the soul.
Oh, wait a minute? You don’t know Harry Manx and Kevin Breit? Missed them, somehow?
Okay, here’s a quick recap:
HARRY MANX – born on the Isle of Man (you can find it in the atlas, with a magnifying glass, midway between the UK and Ireland), he came to Canada when he was a kid.
Eventually, he moved on — and on, and on — to South America, China, Europe and India — before he returned home to Saltspring, an idyllic retreat off Vancouver Island.
His years in India, and his mastery of the mohan veena (a 20-string modified slide guitar, developed by Manx’s mentor Vishwa Mohan Bhatt) influenced his accomplished slide guitar work, Harry’s deep affection for the blues and his laid-back vocal style led him to a career as a solo artist, with stunningly enthusiastic response from festival audiences in Canada, the U.S., Europe and Australia.
Along the way he recorded his first album, “Dog My Cat,” in 2000, and followed it with “Wise and Otherwise” in 2001. Three more releases (“Road Ragas,” “west eats meet” and “Mantras for Madmen”) have followed.
KEVIN BREIT lives in a small Ontario country town, but almost every Monday night — for more than 10 years — he has packed some of his many guitars and driven to the Orbit Room, a tiny club in the middle of Toronto’s Little Italy.
“That gig grounds me,” he says, acknowledging that there have been times, on extensive world-wide tours with Cassandra Wilson or Norah Jones, that he’s had to get a substitute for the gig. “I remember once, in Brazil, looking at my watch and thinking, ‘heck, I’ve got to get ready for the Orbit Room’ before I realized where I was.”
His studio work and tours with Wilson and Jones may have ramped up his fame, but he has become a first-call recording guitarist for literally hundreds of other artists. He seems to have particular empathy for women singers — recent sessions for Molly Johnson, Holly Cole, Rosanne Cash, Serena Ryder, Rita Chiarelli, Janis Ian, k.d. lang and Natalie MacMaster have added to a lengthening discography and pay tribute to his skills. To prove his versatility, he’s also recorded with Ian Tyson, Marc Jordan, Amos Lee and the Guess Who.
He also leads at least three bands (at last count!), The Sisters Euclid, Folk Alarm and Supergenerous, and there are at least 15 CDs in the Breit catalogue.
HARRY MANX + KEVIN BREIT ** are a duo who seem made for each other. More importantly, they’re made for us.
Kevin Breit tells the story: “We were both at a folk festival in Owen Sound and were asked to share a workshop. We were introduced, we shook hands, and we went on stage and started to play. No rehearsal, no set list, no plans. And it was magic!” That was in 2001, and the instant friendship the pair had struck resulted in the award-winning album “Jubilee”.
Now, five years on, the magic is still there. Says Kevin: “Originally, we planned a slide guitar album with Harry and my friend in California, Greg Liesz. Then, at the last minute, Greg got sick and couldn’t make it. But the studio was booked, tickets purchased, so we went ahead. At first, we thought we’d leave spaces for Greg to fill later — but, to be honest we just couldn’t leave an invisible hole. So we all decided to leave that idea for another time.
“For four days we just played. Two or three takes of each tune at the most. It came together so well; Harry and I are a symbiotic team. And this was double the fun that we had five years back.”
IN GOOD WE TRUST: This new CD has four songs written by each of the musical partners, plus one co-write and Springsteen’s “I’m on Fire” and a dark traditional ballad “Death Have Mercy”.
Manx handles the vocals, with Breit contributing backups. No bass, no drums, no horns — just the sounds made by two amazing players and the multitude of stringed instruments they brought to the studio with them.
Harry Manx and Kevin Breit share a degree of commitment as well as musical excellence.
Trust in good is well placed. And this CD is proof.