Roger Manning

Press for the Moll/Shananchie CD ('95/'97)

The Austin Chronicle

Roger Manning (Shanachie) ****

In the past 10 years, New York punk-folk vagabond Roger Manning has played the role of sore thumb at both SST and Shimy-disc, so it's no big surprise to find his latest release pop up amid the indigenous music of Shanachie. Recorded with a full band on four-tracks at various Manhattan apartments, this album is Manning's most realized effort to date. Austinites will no doubt recognize the similarities between Manning and Hammell on Trial. Both attack their beat-up acoustic guitars with a ferocity that produces a, low growling sound. The two artist share an affinity for half-humorous introspection and leftist political causes. The difference between these two brands of anti-folk, however, is manifest in Manning's well-honed songsmithing versus Hammell's preference toward tangential rants. Manning's approach is form-fitting for his tales of cross-country travel, American indignation, and especially romantic woe. On "The Pearly Blues #6 (Explanation Blues)" and "East 5th Street Blues #5", he explores intimacies with a thorough brush that nails difficult shades of gray with remarkable accuracy. You really don't switch in and out of love just like that and neither do Manning's songs. It's a bit unfair to tag Manning as a confessional songwriter in the tabloid age, but that moniker is ultimately un avoidable. This is stark truth. The difference between Manning and the average talk show guest is his singular and unique way of framing life stories.
      -Greg Beets

Option Magazine

Roger Manning

Well, Manning is tenacious, that's for sure. Years after the "anti-folk" movement failed to move anybody, he's still plugging away. The even bigger surprise is that Manning's new album is notably better than previous ones. This may or may not be due to the rowdy band behind him but there can be no doubt that the percussive guitars and thickened sound make a difference. It helps that these are actual songs and not just confessional poetry recitals with acoustic accompaniment. The words fit mainly into the lamentable tradition of it's-all-true, self published poets but Manning avoids the genre's pitfalls by writing the lyrics to be dense and then performing them to be tossed off. It's a clever way to ensure that you get something whether you're listening to the words or not. But the real clincher is the way Manning and Co. ride the riffs like they were breaking in a colt. At times it sounds like they're racing for the song's end, creating extra tension that finally puts the "anti-" into "anti-folk", which previously tended towards the indeterminable. Perhaps that only means that Roger Manning is a rock'n'roll record just as much as Dylan's early electric albums were. Tune in for further broadcasts.
      -Lang Thompson


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