HARRY MANX at the Jane Mallett Theatre (27 Front East), Saturday (February 12). $30. 416-366-7723. Rating: NNNNN
When we hook up by phone, I'm expecting Harry Manx to be in Albuquerque, but due to some visa problems, he's at his Salt Spring Island home in British Columbia. This suits the ever laid-back guitar slinger just fine.
"You know, travelling now doesn't hold the same thrill it once did. I'm happy to be back home, even if only for a couple of days. My day-to-day life now is all about travelling, airports, hotels, so I miss those little things like taking out the garbage.
"I haven't lived here long, but I love the island. It's kinda the end of the road, ya know. There are a lot of freaks and misfits here, so I feel right at home."
It was travel that got him into music in the first place.
"When I was 15, I started out as a roadie for the likes of Crowbar, Chilliwack and Rush, which was a great way to learn a lot about the music business." But after five years, he'd had enough.
So he started to play the guitar himself and headed off to Europe, Japan and Australia, playing on the streets and making enough to get by. He released his debut album, Dog My Cat (NorthernBlues Music) in 2001.
On his latest album, West Eats Meet (Dog My Cat), Manx has added some tabla and dholak to round out his slide, harp, banjo and Mohan Veena stylings. When he ventures to Hogtown this Saturday, it'll just be Manx onstage to take you into what his fans call "the Harry zone."
Like Ry Cooder, who reached a high-water mark playing with Indian guitar master V.M. Bhatt on the much-lauded 1993 set A Meeting By The River (Waterlily Acoustics), Manx, too, lived in India and was a disciple of Bhatt, the inventor of a 20-string slide guitar dubbed the Mohan Veena. It's an instrument that's nearly impossible to play, let alone master.
"While guys like Johnny Winter and Jimi Hendrix are great players and influenced me a lot, no one came close to Vishwa Mohan Bhatt.
"When I first heard the Mohan Veena, I was blown away and immediately dropped everything and headed to India. I was lucky enough to connect with Bhatt, and we quickly became great friends. I lived just a couple of blocks from him, and he was kind enough to take me on as a disciple, playing with me and his sons just about every day for five whole years."
A blend of blues and Indian sounds is rare in music these days.
"I don't play blues exclusively, so I've been very fortunate that the blues community has been so good to me," allows Manx. "I may not have two feet in the blues, but at least they recognize me for the one foot.
"The way I see it, blues is like the earth, and Indian music is like the heavens. What I do is find the balance between the two."