Tony Manard's Big Ole Band Captures A Big Small Town Called Memphis 

click to enlarge thanksyallcoverhighres.jpg
"Getting by in Memphis...Getting high in Memphis...Getting fired in Memphis." So end the first three verses of Tony Manard's "Fool From Memphis." On the way, he name checks Wild Bill's, Joe's Liquor Store, and Raiford's, and remembers how "downtown smelled like Wonder Bread." Then comes the chorus, like the recurring story of a neighborhood drunk: "I saw Jerry Lawler wrestle Junkyard Dog at the intermission of a monster truck show, Mid South Colieseum."

It's all narrated in such a casual, offhand way that you really will feel Memphis around you as you listen, and that captures one of the hallmarks of Thanks Y'all!, Manard's newly self-released album: its fine-grained sense of place. The city is a recurring character through many of the songs here, all written by Manard, and he savors his lyrical images of the city like photos of an old friend. And it's all set to an Americana-esque blend of folk, bluegrass and country rock with a mildly funky vibe.

The lineup gives one a sense of the overall sound:
Tony Manard - Guitar, Vocals
Cecil Yancy -  Guitar, Vocals
Alice Hasen - Fiddle, Vocals
Carlos Gonzalez - Mandolin, Vocals
Brian Mulhearn - Electric Guitar, Vocals
Jimmy Stephens jr, - Bass
Vinnie Manard - Keys
Stephen Chopek - Drums
Evan Farris - Dobro, Lap Steel, Vocals

click to enlarge Tony Manard
  • Tony Manard
The arrangements sound remarkably uncluttered for such a big ol' band, with some standout solos by Alice Hasen on fiddle and Carlos Gonzalez on mandolin.

It should be noted that Manard's local cred goes beyond shouting out place names. The ongoing saga summed up by the punchline,"Man, the sun's goin' down and I feel pretty good/Made a pontoon boat from a Cadillac hood" is a perfect portrait of the D.I.Y. spirit that's alive and well in this city. Manard relishes every detail of building the "Party Barge" in a song reminiscent of Johnny Cash's "One Piece At a Time," destined to accompany the sound of pneumatic tools in garages for years to come.

Finally, the sense of place is palpable in more ways than one on the album's closer, "Ain't No Freedom." The music video was shot live at Clayborn Temple this February and released on April 8, the anniversary of a 40,000-strong march in memory of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., just days after his assassination. And the tune, a call for a more just society, is entirely appropriate to his legacy. As Manard writes in the press materials:

This is a staple of our live shows, but I had no intention of recording it in the studio. We got the opportunity to record it live, and make a video at historic Clayborn Temple. This was the rally point of the 1968 sanitation worker's strike and the place the iconic "I am a man" signs were made an distributed. Tony Barnshaw Dickerson, a fantastic writer, singer and choir leader, came to our rehearsal to work with us on the phrasing and added his beautiful voice. We also recruited our friends Annie Freres and Kathleen Quinlen to sing with us. We invited a bunch of our friends to join the chorus and be in the video. Everyone there felt the energy of the location. We couldn't be happier with how it turned out. Walt Busby handled the live recording. Jared Callan shot and Christian Walker directed.

Check the video out below. Thanks Y'all! is available at local record shops and at Tony Manard shows, which may either be solo or feature the Big Ole Band.

Tony Manard appears at the Halloran Centre, Sunday, Sept. 15, at 4:00 pm.

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