Manuel Bruce - Manuel Is Back With Friends
Naming an album 'Manuel is back... with friends' then proclaiming in the very first track that one "can't go to work anymore" makes me want to cry "Paradox!", but surprisingly, this multi-instrumental, multicultural album seems to stick religiously to it's common vein of chilled out, bluesy, bossa nova latin music. Manuel and his friends manage to put together a well thought-out and entertaining music pick n' mix, despite the fact that if they're not at work they are probably all in a bar somewhere.
But for this, Bruce's fifth album overall, it seems that work was the kicker. A plumber by trade, he was offered the chance to record for the plumbing he did at a studio - and who better placed than a hard-working man to write good blues? As for his friends, they include Diaz, who performs with Manuel mostly in Tucson, and whom happened to be visiting Alaska at the time, guitarist Lindy Raines (of the Fairbanks blues band the Mighty Untouchables); San Diego based saxman Jim Abbey, renowned "Nashville picker" Robert Couch, who toured with Willie Nelson (he contributes the jaunty blues instrumental "Moose Trax" to Manuel Is Back with Friends), and blues singer and piano player Professor Paul, who cut his teeth in Chicago and played with Big Walter. A fine band of merry men to go about making merry music.
That's what this album is all about really: merry music. Pick-you-up music, music that is for the most part pointless but at the same time enjoyable. 'Hot Chicken Soup', a case in point; in which Bruce (on vocals) insists to his listeners that women are trouble - he'd rather have chicken soup, and that'll make him feel better. There are rich instrumental tracks too like 'Nostalgia', which can be very much made your own excursion with every listen. Simples.
Sometimes it gets a little background-y, and it does leap-frog a few genres which can be incredibly disconcerting. But at the final track, 'You Send Me', you're dropped off back at home with a lilting, harmonic wave goodbye. It's not that different from many other goodbyes you've had, but that's the thing about goodbyes, and good blues - it never really gets old.
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