On this page is a collection of reviews and comments about Phil's album "Two Roads". You can also listen to several of the songs from Two Roads by clicking the image of the Shockwave player below.

Bruce Elder Review - Sydney Morning Herald - The Guide

Manning the cutting edge
Blues 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.

Mike Daly Review - The Age - Green Guide

From the lush hinterland of south-east Queensland, where Phil Manning has discovered a personal musical paradise, comes this woody, acoustic guitar gem. Phil, of Chain fame (the old band still gets together and draws big festival crowds), is a mellow fellow these days. Countrified blues still drives his music and he has the nous to write and sing about reality: his present life and concerns.

The title number is about balancing music and domesticity; Water on the Road details a harrowing drive home through floods, Madness Set Loose relates his reaction to the Port Arthur massacre; and If You See My Baby is a delightful, slide-rich, country-pop duet with Jeff Lang on mandolin and vocals.

Listening to the self-produced Two Roads, it’s apparent Manning’s prodigious musical skills are more finely honed than they were in his raging days, except now there’s time to contemplate the world and smell the woodsmoke. Lucky chap … nice album!