Phil Manning is bringing his unique blend of front-porch guitar blues to Phnom Penh.
Manning will play The FCC Phnom Penh on June 29 and 30.
Phnom Penh, once a sleepy outpost along the Mekong River, has in recent years began evolving into a robust Asian capital. Manning is the latest in a string of international acts to perform in the city over the last 12 months. Others include DJ Cash Money, Sean Kingston and The Backsliders.
“I never go anywhere far from home without a guitar,” says the 61-year-old Tasmanian bluesman, who will be traveling through the region with his wife. “It’s just terrific to have the opportunity to play while we are there.”
Manning has been a fixture on the Australian music scene since the late 1960s. In 1969, he co-founded the band Chain, arguably the greatest blues band Australia has ever produced.
Manning and Chain are often credited for exposing Australia to blues music, the roots of which come from America’s black communities in the country’s deep south.
Critics praise Manning for his sensational technical abilities, silky vocals and insightful songwriting. A finger-picker and slide guitar player, he points to the six-string style of the early delta masters as the foundation of his music.
With those powerful roots, Manning has blended a lifetime of further musical influence, and echoes of country, bluegrass and folk reverberate through his songs.
“Later on I discovered players like Doc Watson, Norman Blake, Tony Rice and the whole bluegrass thing,” he says. “All that (and a bit of Celtic) have rubbed off in the way I play, although I never sat down and learnt much of it note for note. I’d probably be a better player if I had, but I’ve sort of got my own way of going about things as a result.”
He has shared the stage with many of the genre’s greatest names, including Muddy Waters, Sonny Terry and Brownie McGee, Albert Collins, Freddie King and even Bo Diddley.
“We had about 10 minutes of rehearsal and that was it,” he says of playing with Diddley, the legendary Chicago bluesman. “From that we did an hour and a half show.”
Manning says that after 45 years of pickin’ and grinnin’, he has now matured into a complete guitarist.
“My influences are totally absorbed into my own playing, and there is sense of satisfaction that comes from that,” he says.
For the Phnom Penh shows, Manning will play much like the turn-of-the-century American blues travelers of a hundred years ago.
“I’ll have one of my acoustic guitars (with pickup of course) and a stomp box,” he says.
Rather than work from prepared material, Manning prefers to let the crowd set the direction.
“I usually have a few things I start with to settle in and relax. After that the set goes where it feels right,” he says. “I have a lot of songs in my head, mostly original and traditional blues or blues-based pieces.”