"Devil on the Wall is a very bluesy album. A couple of fine covers of blues standards appear amongst the rollicking original tunes. Manitoba Hal may have set his ukelele aside for much of the album, but there is no denying that the man knows his way around a blues guitar. With a sweetly vulnerable cry in his naturally authoritative voice, the prairie boy turned blue-noser leaves no doubt that he has mastered the feel-good heartbreak that defines a really good blues tune.
Devil on the Wall is a fairly short album, only nine tracks, but it proves the adage that good things come in small packages. Do yourself a favour and check this one out." - No Depression Review
Nine bullets of pure blues triggered by Manitoba Hal’s reunion with his resonator guitar fly with precision on his twelfth recording, “Devil On The Wall”. Every note is right on target as this ‘Ukulele Bluesman’ demonstrates his marksmanship on both four and six strings, as well as his artistry as a vocalist and songwriter.
Omens of warning and signs of hope appear as Hal reveals the radiance hidden in the darkest of HOURS while reminding his fated fugitives, restless HEARTS, and lost travelers that even their brightest intentions can cast foreboding shadows. “Devil On The Wall” opens with it’s title track “.44”; an ominous tale of murder, escape and capture inspired by an urban myth about a dead body encased in the walls of an old hotel. The album’s drive follows the solid groove of Australian drummer Jonathon Barbagallo with, “Love Sign” a bold profession of love as yet unrequited. Penned by elusive bluesman Hi-Henry Brown, Hal includes “Titanic Blues”, a voice and resonator blues offering Captain Smith’s assurances for his unsinkable ship’s doomed passengers. Also included is the classic “Sweet Home Chicago” with Hal’s enthusiastic invitation to join him on a journey to the heart of the blues. “Smile” returns to the full electric blues sound with keys provided by the album’s producer, David Findlay and upright bass by T. B. Player. Hal creates a warm trio of voice, ukulele and resonator guitar on “Daylight” as the sun rises on a new day dawning the second half of the record. “Love Carries On” shares a daybreak departure taking to the unending road alone, leaving love behind. Manitoba Hal concludes "Devil On The Wall" with two songs about outlaws and outcasts; as lovers compare themselves with the heated passion of partners in crime in "Bonnie & Clyde", driving full throttle into reckless love. "Tom & Huck" is Hal's rambling resonator instrumental sailing the listener off to further mischievous adventures.
Tom Sawyer’s adventures accompanied Manitoba Hal on his writing retreat at an isolated solar powered cottage near Fort Coulange Quebec in October of 2012, where he crafted all nine songs on “Devil On The Wall”. His first guitar-based album since 2006’s “Come The Ruination”, Hal plays a one of a kind hand-built Arvey resonator built by Thunder Bay luthier Richard Harvey. Spending most of the last seven years performing mainly on ukulele, Hal’s love for the guitar never faded as he returned to it at home in Shelburne, Nova Scotia between his relentless tours across Canada, the U.K
. and Australia. “Devil On The Wall” was recorded at Hal’s home studio and at David Findlay’s studio in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia.