Tracy Manuel: Purgatory, CA Review

Tracy Manuel: Purgatory, CA Review

by Griff Stevens

Born and raised in Far NorCal, Tracy Manuel is an alt-country percussionist, guitarist, singer, and songwriter that chronicles contemporary rural life in her music, borrowing evenly from plaintive acoustic songcraft and experimental electric knob-twiddling. Manuel’s genre-bending, self-produced album, Purgatory, CA, is an unflinching song cycle bearing witness to small-town disaster, from the personal to the political to the ecological. With most of the songs written months before her hometown was ravaged by the 2018 Carr Fire, these tales of ash and disillusionment reach beyond one community’s tragedy to reveal a national malaise. Manuel is a one-woman band — she plays acoustic and electric guitars, bass, and drums. The melodies and stories are all delivered by Manuel’s resounding alto voice.  Joining Manuel on pedal and lap steel is Keith Cary adding to the overall depth of Manuel’s sound.

“Late Bloomer” begines with Manuel’s warm vocal style and outstanding lyrics set to a strumming electric guitar part that is eventually colored with the support of Cary’s swells and cries. When the song develops to all the instruments entering, the style is a rootsy alt-country mix that is creative and based in succinct songwriting. Manuel is excellent at layering, you find yourself forgetting she is playing all those instruments, not to mention her impressive singing. Manuel is able to keep a sonic color and continuity across all the parts and sections. She is a formidable lyricist, full of wit, humor and crafty observations.

“Bootstrap Nation” is an attitudinal number based on a hip drum groove and dirty guitar chords. Manuel’s voice is rich and conveys the boldness of the song. Again, her song crafting is creative and full of imagination as she blends sonics with crafty lyrics. The tune scores high marks with great vocals, interesting guitar work and a remarkable feel, to a style that been around for such a long time.

Manuel has a gritty So. Cal sound mixed with an Austin attitude and a twang that lends itself to the best of the Los Angeles, rockabilly grit.  Her sound is about great hooks, mournful realities and heart-torn truths that swagger.  A solid win, highly recommended.

Tracy Manuel: Purgatory, CA Review

Tracks to sample first: “Late Bloomer,” “Bootstrap Nation”  and “Tread On Us.” The song to take a chance on is “Deja Boom.”

Purgatory, CA

by Tracy Manuel

  • Release Date: September 25, 2018
  • Label: Self-Released

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