From December '99/January '00 issue of Dirty Linen

"This is an impressive debut from Chad Manning, a young California fiddler, currently with a couple of bands (including the Scott Nygaard Trio, with Paul Kotapish). The quality of the people who agreed to work with Manning gives some indication of his skills - the CD includes established players such as Mike Marshall, Todd Phillips, Darol Anger, Rob Ickes, and Scott Nygaard. Manning uses his top-class players to their full potential, and the CD is tightly wound, exploding out in a solo here and a dazzling line there. Manning is out of the blocks quickly, opening the CD with "Swamp Light," a newgrass-swing piece. Other styles include a traditional fiddle jam on "Gravel Walk to Granny's" and a more thoughtful mood on "Sierra's Sleeping." On "Winding Minds" Manning shows a jazz player's confidence to experiment, and give a tune time to build. As if the playing weren't enough, Manning also wrote eight of the eleven tracks. In the Midst is a consistent, exciting debut.
From December issue of Bluegrass Unlimited

"Chad Manning's debut recording falls squarely into the genre of new acoustic music which has a prolific home in the San Francisco Bay Area. Among the musicians accompanying Manning on seven original compositions are Darol Anger, David Grier, Rob Ickes, Michael Manring, Mike Marshall, Scott Nygaard, Todd Phillips, and Scott Vestal. Chris Clouse wrote and sings lead on "Living in the Wind," the only cut with vocals. Manning's fiddling is smooth, lush, and complex. His tunes are generally exquisite filigrees rather than the sort of tunes one would hum along with. The other musicians play very well, as one might expect. Expect lots of pyrotechnics from the guitars of Grier and Nygaard and the resonator guiar of Rob Ickes. Although there are banjos on four cuts (Vestal and Marty Cutler on two each), none of the music could be described as bluegrass. The one traditional piece, "Gravel Walk to Granny's," is from a tradition of the British Isles rather than from this country. Those of our readers with an affinity for what might be called acoustic jazz (Dawg, Strength in Numbers, Alison Brown, et al.) will want to add this recording to their collections.
By Ted Silverman From the Spring 1999 issue of Fiddler Magazine

"Bill Monroe was privileged to see and hear the impact his innovations had on generations of musicians in his 5 decades long reign as the doyen of Bluegrass music. Legions of players have followed in his footsteps, many of whom have added new flavors to the original recipe by incorporating influences outside of the Appalachian roots from which this music flowered.

More recently, others simply borrowed the basic instrumentation of the genre adding it to their own unique vision in order to produce a fresh combination of modern form with a traditional voice.

Modernist innovators whoíve followed in the footsteps of Bill Monroe include David Grisman (and his many collaborators), Tony Rice, Bela Fleck, the Newgrass Revival, the 80ís Super-group "Strength in Numbers" and others too numerous to mention. Picking up on this integration of "new forms, old voices", is a fresh crop of "Newgrass" musicians. Among the most promising of these young talents is the San Francisco based fiddler Chad Manning. His debut fiddle album "In the Midst" makes a convincing argument for his place in the ever-growing pantheon of Newgrass talents.

Chad began his San Francisco musical journey playing with local jug bands and pick-up bluegrass acts. With his formidable skill and broader-than-bluegrass reach, he soon bubbled through the ranks and into the musical stable of Darol Anger, a charter member of the David Grisman Quintet. Darol and renowned producer/flatpicker Jim Nunally have produced Chadís first disc with remarkable results. Chad has penned 7 of the CDís 11 songs proving that his talents go quite a ways beyond his imposing abilities with fiddle and bow. Darol Angerís sponsorship of Chad has indeed bred a very tasty musical fruit.

The compositions here are solid throughout with examples of Celtic influence, a tango, traditional fiddle tunes, straight-ahead hard-driving bluegrass and even electronic/new age music (performed with the award winning talents of Michael Manring). The album also features a surprisingly pleasant vocal track penned and sung by Chadís brother, Chris Clouse: "Living in the Wind" explores lyric pop territory without straying into formulaic hooks. The CD closes with a melancholic take on the Hoagy Carmichael standard, "Up the Lazy River".

The sidemen enlisted for this debut project is perhaps the albumís biggest surprise. With the assistance of Darol Anger, Chad has managed to garner the support of a veritable whoís who of Bluegrass/Newgrass stalwarts.

The supporting cast of characters includes the aforementioned Darol Anger with fellow DGQ alumni Mike Marshall (Mandolin) and Todd Phillips (AcousticBass). On guitars Chad has obtained the services of Bay Area wunderkind Scott Nygaard as well as the illustrious David Grier (son of banjo picker Lamar Grier, who played with Bill Monroe and the Bluegrass Boys for several years). "Stealth" banjo picker Scott Vestal adds his signature 5 stringtone and talent and rounding out this stellar cast is 1998 IBMA award winner Rob Ickes on resophonic guitar and electric bass wizard Michael Manring.

Chad shows he can hold his own while shoulder to shoulder with a formidable assortment of musical heavyweights. His compositional skills display a capacity to engage the listener and the arrangement and performances here make this both a record worth purchasing and a bit of a collectorís item as the disc is distributed independently and has not had the benefit of publicity or industry buzz. Chad Manning is a name you will no doubt be hearing more of in the near future."

by Ted Silverman (©1998)
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