Kicking off with a Redondo Beach by way of New York City version of Sonny Hebb's classic Sunny, Harry Manx and Kevin Breit in Strictly Whatever present a compendium of songs that could very well serve as an appetizer flagship for the Stony Plain label, being a broad mixture of folk, 50s, 60s, roots, twang, and even a cut of schlock brilliantly satirizing the odd mode while enshrining it; I laughed my narrow rear-end off while listening to that little gem. However, these good-natured cynics (their lyrics abound with wry one-offs and philosophising) are whiz-bangs when it comes to that ol' 6-string object of musical charm, the guitar, and in Nothing I can Do present a whirlwind of spirited chops to singe ears and set feets to boogying.
If there's a guitar they don't play on this rather eclectic outing, that'd only be because it hasn't been invented yet. Electrics, acoustics, baritones, nationals, lap steels, mando, even mohan veena, ukulele, and electric sitar, f'gawdsakes!, make their way into a smorgasbord that lives but to delight. Hippy Trippy, however, isn't really the glance at 60s psychedelia the promo lit claims it to be but instead a hilarious send-up of all those Emil Richards-type jazz-sessioneer cats trying to cash in on the psych craze of the time. I have a number of the LPs in my collection, and I and fellow progrock/psychrock aficionados laugh our heads off at the efforts...while digging the music, because a jazzbo can't hope but to do well no matter what he tackles. And, oh man, catch Art Avalos' percussion work in this cut. Then trip over to Note to Self, an eerie kind of postlude that flows into a mellifluous Knopfleresque Do not Stand at my Grave and Weep.
Blues figures strongly in as well, especially in a smooth version of Hooker's Mr. Lucky (miscredited to Manx in the liner credits), and there's a islandy sing-along ditty (Little Ukelele) in the whole constantly shifting array. I was more than once reminded of Ry Cooder's killer Bop 'Til You Drop (which itself borrowed a lot from Taj Mahal) release here, even if just for sheer variety in a homogenous context and vocabulary. Despite the admixture of so many modes from way back in the country's history, when Manx & Breit sit down to play, the result is always fresh and inviting, huge emphasis on the 'fresh'.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2011, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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