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CHRIS MANNERS - "Glad of What I Got" - 99YRCD02

So. A singer-songwriter with a guitar, who brings out his own albums. I can see you are worried already. Fear not. If Chris Manners does not make a big name for himself then his albums will certainly be mined for songs by folk bands all over the UK.

Here is a selection of songs written with thought and intelligence, which have something to say as well as something to listen to. Manners is the antithesis of the average little known singer-songwriter. He has clearly thought hard about subject matter, about how he should approach it and from whose point of view. Just by listening to his songs you know he could present an intelligent festival workshop on songwriting.

I was particularly taken with "Last Man Leaving", about Trinity House's completed project to take the man out of the lighthouse. Manners melds the traditional approach to sea-songs with the updated jargon of today's computer driven ships to produce a song with something important to say and the means to catch the listener's ear.

He tackles themes as well as stories. In both "Lifting the Log Again" and "Learning to Swim" he deals with the need to keep the human spirit alive through all despair. In the "Vampire Comes to Whitby" he takes Dracula to the folk festival with comic results and "The Only Living Child of Buddy Holly" has much to say about children and parents whether the story is fiction or not.

"Glad of What I Got" is probably as objectionable a premise as Steve Stills' "Love the One You are With", but that doesn't make it a bad song. In fact on this evidence, Manners doesn't make bad songs. Understated but very pleasant backing too.

Bob Harragan

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This album was reviewed in Issue 36 of The Living Tradition magazine.