Scott’s Reviews: Harry Manx & Kevin Breit – In Good We Trust

in-god-we-trust.jpgHarry Manx & Kevin Breit – In Good We Trust
Stony Plain Records

A truer album title has not been created in many a moon! Duo Harry Manx and Kevin Breit up the ante on this, their second album as a duo following the incredible 2003 release Jubilee, a fantastic record which made music fans do happy headspins once they heard the incredible stringed-instrument playing on the album. While Manx and Breit excel at creating their own compositions, the killer cut on the album was an absolutely astounding cover of The Doobie Brothers’ “Takin’ It To The Streets” which smokes the original. Thank God the two decided their collaboration was worth a second edition as both are very busy with careers of their own. Manx is a successful solo artist with a bunch of excellent albums to his credit, Breit is a very much in-demand jazz session guitarist. On this new disc, as they did on their first disc together, they ply their blues-based (though what they play is much more intellectual than the usual cliche 12-bar blues burner) runs and jazz-flavored licks to perfection on various instruments, adding texture and depth to a great selection of songs infusing them with an incredible amount of soul inherent from their years of musical study.

Born on the Isle of Man, Manx took the formidable guitar-playing skills he gathered at an incredibly young age (by intensely studying his blues guitar heroes nearly ever waking non-school moment) and decided to travel Europe and the rest of the world extensively, learning new applications for his already-incredible technique and phrasing wherever he went. While traveling in Japan in the early ’90s Manx heard a recording of an Indian musical instrument called the Mohan Veena for the first time and was knocked out by the sound and tonal possibilities of the instrument. He so fell in love with the sound of the Mohan Veena he decided to travel to India to study the instrument under one of the Mohan Veena’s most well-renowned teachers, Vishwa Mohan Bhatt. He spent five years studying under Bhatt and also participated in several tours of India with his mentor.

Though Manx gets top billing and a little more attention due to his singular style and ability to add some Middle Eastern flavor to the standard blues forms, Breit is no slouch himself when it comes to guitar prowess. A terrifyingly brilliant guitarist, Breit complements Manx as Breit is also proficient in many stringed instruments, including bouzouki and mandocello among many others. Briet’s list of credits reads like a who’s who of pop and most know him from his work on a pair of k.d.lang’s late ’90’s albums and pop/jazz singer Norah Jones’ three albums. Though Breit does not have the free-spirit, world-traveler vibe Manx has cultivated, Breit can more than hold his own as is very evident on the pair’s two albums, especially the new one.

The new album starts powerfully with the duo’s version of Bruce Springsteen’s “I’m On Fire”. Like they did on their last album with The Doobies’ “Taking It To The Streets”, Manx and Breit manage to take a classic Springsteen song and make it their own in convincing fashion. Though Springsteen’s version was already dark and brooding, Manx and Breit manage to increase the lever of danger in their haunting performance of the song even while using the tone of a bouzouki to add a slight tinge of brightness. Definitely chilling. Their originals are also quite worthy, and hold up favorably to the covers they choose to reinvent. My favorite on the album is the song “Bottom Of The Hill” which is a catchy, though slightly rambling song punctuated by gorgeous guitar work from Manx and Breit. The instrumentals scattered throughout the record are also very interesting, like scores for a great movie yet to be filmed. Their passion is evident on every note they play and this album stands as one of the best duo guitar albums ever made.

This is a disc which will unite the two warring factions of people who love stringed-instrument pyrotechnics and prefer their favorite guitarist be able to wank away with no regard for the song (and would probably prefer there were no song at all, just ten minute solos) with those who are fans of great playing but prefer the artist would play with taste and “for-the-song”. Both factions will get what they want on this album because it is filled with great, jaw-dropping instrumental work performed for the beauty of the musical composition, not just playing for it’s own sake. Some of the best instrumental work I have ever heard. Pick this up and have to mind blown with pure musicianship. Wonderful!

Scott Homewood