Last November I reviewed “New Ink” by the Canadian MMA fighter turned country star in waiting, Manny Blu. Amongst my cliches and lame jokes, there was one thing I said that made (some) sense: “A superb record from an artist with a tremendous potential.”
“Devil” is here, some nine months later and its five tracks that neatly underline all those points again. However, there’s also the point that rather like one of those raw football players (soccer to anyone reading this over the other side of the Atlantic) that comes back for the new season looking fit and strong, this is an EP that proves Manny is ready.
We are, though, no closer to working out what he is. That is to say, he’s got Country Punk written on his hand on the promo picture and he’s working with some of the finest songsmith’s Nashville has to offer, but he’s not country, not really, nor is he punk.
“Train” for example, is a big rock song. Proper arena shaking stuff. The big old solo would have graced the Stereophonics circa “Bartender And The Thief” and there’s a dark kind of gravitas to the string laden “Might As Well Lead”. Genuinely brilliant, too. A real cracker of a track, it’s the sort of thing Bon Jovi often hinted at, but never had the courage to pull off.
“Valet” does do the country pop thing. A duet with Brittany Kennell, who’s vocal delivery is mighty too, but Chase Rice is taking this to the top of the charts, and there’s a down-home blue collar thing about “Rusty Things” too. The tale of a bloke who knows how lucky he is will resonate everywhere. It is supposed to.
“Circle Up” is another duet – this time with Blaine Holcombe – and I am here to tell you that The Cadillac Three are somewhere in Texas sippin’ a beer and working out how they never thought of it first. It would be their perfect tune, but Manny and Blaine own it themselves here.
There’s a line on it too: “no time for the Town Square preps, our geometry is in the woods with the Rednecks” and that’s kind of how Manny Blu sees things, you guess. He’s an outsider and these are his songs. Doing what he loves and “Devil” may care, as it were.