|Manning the cutting edge
CD of the Week
Is it possible
to have the serious, low-down blues in Australia? Well, why not?
On this remarkable recording, Phil Manning (if you are old enough
you may remember him as the lead guitarist of Chain) has the daring
to put some very tasty and traditional blues licks cheek-to-jowl
with such overtly Aussie sentiments as "When I left from
Sydney I was miles from my childhood home
No money in my
pocket and my feet hot on the ground / I jumped a freight at Kempsey
/ On my way to Brisbane town."
The result is not,
as you would expect, high incongruity. Rather it is an acknowledgment
that, while the blues may be rooted in the experience of African
Americans, it is now a part of the musical vocabulary of people
all over the world.
This is not some
kind of lame-brained, white-boy defence. Recently B.B. King, citing
blues players as diverse as Nathan Cavilleri and groups in Germany
and Holland, claimed that the most interesting contemporary blues
is being played by white boys. The argument is that mainstream
blues has been overwhelmed, particularly in black urban society,
by rap and that blues and R&B have become international forms
of musical expression.
All this being said,
then Phil Manning, quite late in his career, is suddenly at the
cutting edge of modern blues. This acoustic recording is a total
delight. The playing is exceptional lots of very, very
good dobro, 12 string and "resophonic" guitar. The songs
work through sheer daring, a profound understanding of the narrow
themes of the blues, and a preparedness to see Australia as a
legitimate subject for a blues song. Thus, across 16 tracks, there
are references to water across the road at Coomera, a love song
in which he declares "I miss her from my caravan", a
song called Dingo Moon (a neat joke on the old blues standard
Black Cat Moan) and an entire song part blues, part folk
song devoted to the Port Arthur Massacre.
This is an outstanding
album of finely crafted, blues-tinged songs performed with virtuosity
and genuine passion.