It's been a long road for producer, engineer, and musician Terry Manning, who cut his rock & roll teeth with the Wild Ones back in El Paso in 1963. His family moved to Memphis shortly thereafter and he began working at Stax and Ardent studios as a teen. Manning is one of the most respected engineers and producers in music history -- Led Zeppelin III, the first two Big Star records, Al Green, ZZ Top, the Staple Singers, Albert King, Shakira, Lenny Kravitz, and literally over 100 others have benefitted from his work in either or both capacities. Though he's worked at Compass Point in Nassau since 1992, Manning has never forgotten that fellow El Paso native, Bobby Fuller, was his initial inspiration and provided him with early guidance. On West Texas Skyline: A Tribute to Bobby Fuller, Manning delivers a 12-song set of tunes associated with Fuller and his biggest influence, Buddy Holly (also from West Texas), as well as a pair of excellent originals. Without sounding like a revivalist, Manning digs deep for the trebley, crackling spark that captures the twang of the Telecaster and the crisp snare snap that captures Fuller's spirit. Holly's "Love's Made a Fool of You" opens careening and swerving all the way. Fuller's hiccuping "You're in Love" crosses the seams between country, R&B, and rockabilly, while his "Guess We'll Fall in Love," weds El Paso rock & roll to "The Twist." "Let Her Dance" shimmies and shakes as razor-sharp guitars and electric piano fill in behind the melody. Fuller's biggest hit "I Fought the Law" -- written by Sonny Curtis -- is done here with a 21st century fire and zeal. The production contains an organ, handclaps, spiky guitars, and a popping drum kit that walks the line between garage rock and rockabilly. Manning's songs include the rocking but melancholy title track, which in its tragic, romantic spirit recalls Dave Alvin's and Peter Case's "Haley's Comet." The soul-drenched "Cold Night in Heaven" reflects how deeply influential Texas and Memphis R&B have been on the songwriter. Two excellent Fuller ballads close it out, the passionate "New Shade of Blue" and the tender, dreamy "Gently My Love" (the latter owes a debt to another Texas musician, Roy Orbison). West Texas Skyline is not only one man's tribute to a criminally underrated artist, but a heartfelt articulation of rock & roll's roots.
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AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek