Blues bard Roger Manning
to play Alley
By Heather Frye
Unversity of Idaho Argonaut
are a million brands of pissed off in this world. Focused or unfocused,
general or specific they all have consequences, both good and bad. But
every now and then a tiny piece of worthy rage filters itself through
the heart of a poet and gives birth to a whole new brand of musical
prose, rife with humor and dripping with ironic sarcasm. Enter East
Coast Roger Manning (not to be confused with the California artist of
the same name), veteran road poet and musician who travels the nation
delivering his own brand of, as he calls it, "word things attached to
music" one small club at a time.
Manning, a native of Springville, N.Y., hit the music scene in the
late 1980s playing in the street and later at small New York clubs.
His first, self-titled album (all of his albums are self titled) received
a good deal of attention in the punk world as it was released on the
alternative label SST Records who also produced Black Flag and Dinosaur
Jr. among others. Since then he has not ridden any rockets into the
limelight but has maintained a pretty steady career of touring, writing
and occasionally producing albums that inspire critical acclaim and
a few new fans.
But Manning seems to be happy out of the mainstream. He is not really
a mainstream kind of artist. Musically, his work is an odd blend of
hip-hop punk and acidic grungy-blues. His lyrics are political and sexual,
lonely and spiritual. In short, he is a raw, wry-spry, verbose and devilish.
He is eclectic.
"I consider myself to be an entertainer; entertainment through thinking,"
said Manning. Though he is musically self taught and his lyrics are
straight from his heart and experience, traces of the post-modern poets
and writers can be heard in his work.
"Stylistically, I am not that literary, but after I read Kerouac I
decided that all my songs would be true," said Manning. However, though
he does take some influence from the beat writers and others such as
Milan Kundera and John S. Hall, his own expressions are unique. His
shows are usually are an engaging, hi-energy mix of the ribald, the
cerebral, and the bitingly satirical. He admits that provocation is
"Basically, I am trying to get people to laugh, and I do that by being
very frank. It pokes people," said Manning.
His songs are all denoted as "the blues." This is primarily a product
of Manning's off-beat sense of humor. Initially he thought it would
be amusing to have an entire album with every song name ending in or
incorporating "the blues." But it stuck, through all of his albums,
and has now become one of his signatures as well as a serious description
for his music.
"The blues is sort of a lament. It's singin' about your life. And that's
what I do, sing about life. The coyotes are out there howlin' and I'm
out there singin' the blues," said Manning. Manning is a unique and
extraordinary performer with a grand and witty-gritty voice. Check him
out at John's Alley on Monday, Oct. 26 somewhere in the 8-ish to 10-ish
(p.m.) time slot. It promises to be a good show and a great break from
the Monday night doldrums. This is a 21-and-over show. For more information
on Roger Manning and for more concert dates, check out his website at