Manx Marriner Mainline – Hell Bound For Heaven
10 songs – 39 minutes
The names of Harry Manx and Steve Marriner will be well-known to many Blues Blast readers. Roots legend Harry Manx has long been acclaimed for his unique blending of blues, folk and Hindustani classical music. His official website describes his music as being a “blend of Indian folk melodies with slide guitar blues”, which, if you add in a sprinkle of gospel, is about as fair a description as any. A multi-instrumentalist, singer and songwriter, Steve Marriner first attracted attention as a blues harmonica prodigy in the early 2000s, which is when he first met Manx. The duo have played many gigs together over the years, but Hell Bound For Heaven is their debut recording together – and it’s a cracking little release.
Manx contributes vocals, slide guitar, banjo and Mohan Veena (a modified slide guitar, traditionally used in Indian classical music – as exemplified on the solo on the title track of this album); Marriner adds vocals, electric, acoustic, baritone and 12-string guitars, harmonica, bass, Hammond organ and drums. Additional musicians on Hell Bound For Heaven include Moe Duella on drums, Clayton Doley on Hammond organ, Jim Bowskill on violin and viola and backing vocals from The Gamblers, The Marrinaires and the Sahaja Singers. Manx and Marriner either wrote or co-wrote six of the tracks on the album, with the other four being a delicious sampling of the pair’s shared blues and gospel influences.
Manx and Marriner share the vocal duties on the album. Manx has a slightly rougher-edged voice, but both voices suit the material and mesh together perfectly. Together, they cover a wide range of blues styles, all successfully. The album opens with the slow shuffle of Manx’s “Nothing”, which highlights his rough-hewn voice as well as Marriner’s harmonica and electric guitar solos. The upbeat “Everybody Knows” and the acoustic title track move into blues-rock territory while “My Lord” is acoustic gospel that is essentially a solo showcase for Marriner on 12 string guitar and harmonica (with additional backing vocals from the Marrinaires). The banjo-led “My Only One” by contrast strays towards folk-blues.
Of the covers, the traditional “This Little Light Of Mine” is given an upbeat gospel backing with uplifting backing vocals from the Sahaja Singers and a lovely collection of solos – even a country guitar solo from Marriner. Charlie Patton’s “Rattlesnake Blues” is given a grinding, threatening, modern blues-rock treatment with neat tandem slide/harmonica licks. By contrast, the Reverend Gary Davis’ “Death Don’t Have No Mercy” is played relatively faithfully, with just 12-string guitar from Marriner and subtle slide guitar from Manx, while The Staple Singers’ “Wish I Had Answered” retains Pops’ heavily-tremolo’ed guitar but adopts a much slower groove, which really benefits the song.
Some tracks feature full-band arrangements (“Rattlesnake Blues”, “Wish I Had Answered”) while others adopt a variety of instruments. The closing track, “Rise And Fall In Love”, features just Manx’s voice, Marriner’s tremolo’ed guitar and Bowskill’s subtle viola and violin. “My Only One” has a banjo, harmonica and Doley’s Hammond organ only. Interestingly, a number of tracks have no bass at all, although it is never missed, thanks to the clever contributions of the other instruments.
Recorded primarily at Dog My Cat Studios in Saltspring Island, BC, Manx and Marriner have captured a warm, lively sound. Hell Bound For Heaven is a fine release. Well worth investigating.