Good communication skills are very nearly as important as musical ability when it comes to making a duo work—unless you’re David Lindley and Harry Manx, in which case they might not be important at all.
As Manx notes on the line from Toronto, sometimes you’ve just got to wing it.
That’s how he and his fellow slide-guitar adventurer first met: together, on-stage, without having talked much at all. Their initial encounter was at an Ottawa Folk Festival workshop, and when that happy accident was followed by a rather sad occasion, the two decided it was time to take things more seriously—but not too seriously.
“There’s a fellow in Roberts Creek that’s a promoter, Peter,” Manx explains. “I can’t remember Peter’s last name, but his wife passed away a few years back, from cancer, and she’d said to him before she died that her two favourite artists were me and David, ’cause he’d had us both there playing at different times. So Peter called me and asked if I would get together with David and do a concert in honour of his wife, and I said that would be great.
“It worked out really well, and at the end of it we looked at each other and said, ”˜Let’s try this again.’ So we’ve booked five shows—Victoria, Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, and Toronto—and the first one will be tomorrow night, here in Toronto.”
As the Salt Spring Island resident explains, this is one summit that has not required much strategic planning.
“I sent David a list of songs that I might play,” Manx says, laughing, “and he wrote back to me a few days ago, saying, ”˜I couldn’t open that file, so forget about it.’
“But here’s the thing Lindley said to me the first time I asked him about rehearsals,” he continues. “He said, ”˜I heard from a friend, and he told me that rehearsals are for cowards.’ When he said that, I laughed my guts out.”
The two shouldn’t have much difficulty joining forces. Both are virtuosic players of the lap-steel guitar, and both share a love of American roots styles such as blues and bluegrass. As well, they’ve each explored more exotic forms of music: Manx spent several years learning ragas at the foot of Indian slide master Vishwa Mohan Bhatt, and Lindley has an encyclopedic knowledge of Turkish and other Middle Eastern styles. And they both love strange strings: in addition to various guitars, they’ll probably bring six-string banjo, saz, oud, cumbus, violin, and mohan veena to the stage.
There’s also another point of reference that Manx has yet to disclose to Lindley: the California veteran of a million recording sessions is probably the main reason why his Canadian counterpart decided to take up the guitar in the first place.
“A long time ago, when I was living in Japan, I was listening to a Jackson Browne record and I thought, ”˜What is it about the guitar player that sounds so cool?’ And then I realized he was playing lap slide, and it wasn’t long after that that I started playing. I’d heard slide players forever and loved them, but nobody ever moved me to go get a guitar and actually start playing like David did.
“I never told him that,” Manx adds, chuckling. “I don’t want to scare him.”