STYLE: Blues RATING OUR PRODUCT CODE: 179812-29441 LABEL: Music Maker FORMAT: CD Album
Reviewed by Lins Honeyman
North Carolina-born blues singer/guitarist Bishop Dready Manning is part of an ever-diminishing group of artists who provide an integral link back to the very origins of blues music as evidenced on this collection of delightfully stripped back and unembellished acoustic numbers. During the 1970s, Manning recorded several singles for various gospel labels but this release from 2005 - realised with the financial help of the Music Maker Relief Foundation - effectively saw the good bishop being "discovered" in his autumn years in much the same way as the late Leo 'Bud' Welch. In his early 70s when it was released, Manning's weathered vocals are accompanied here by nothing much more than the man's fine Piedmont guitarwork and a few piercing harmonica runs with an upright piano and some tentative drumming occasionally making an appearance in unassuming fashion to try and beef things out a bit. For the most part, Manning keeps within familiar gospel blues boundaries with overdone standards like "Don't Let The Devil Ride", Thomas Dorsey's "Search Me Lord" and "You Got To Move" (named "When The Lord Gets Ready" on this occasion) taking pride of place but there's a sense that his unadorned versions are how they've always meant to sound anyway making their inclusion most definitely worthwhile. Elsewhere, Manning's wife Marie takes charge on a brisk version of "Glory Glory" whilst Manning dons his preaching hat with warnings against the devil ("Go Ahead Satan And Leave Me Alone"), disobedient offspring ("Hard Headed Children") and - somewhat awkwardly in today's day and age - women in short skirts and men with long hair in "People Don't Pray". Undoubtedly the highlight of the album, "What Was I Doing When The Saints Of God Found Me" finds Manning giving testimony about how, back in 1962, a group of Christians took him into their house to pray that the unstoppable nose bleeds he was experiencing from years of heavy drinking would stop. As reported in the song itself, he immediately felt the presence of Jesus, the haemorrhaging halted and he gave his life there and then to the Lord. Manning would then go on to set up his own Holiness church whilst throwing this solitary stellar gospel blues album into the ring for good measure.
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