Sixth-Generation ‘Ozark Daughter’: Singer/songwriter Manos brings old, new together on CD

Sixth-Generation ‘Ozark Daughter’: Singer/songwriter Manos brings old, new together on CD

Traci Rae Manos is many things — singer-songwriter, poet and recipient of an Artists 360 grant that recently allowed her to complete her fourth album, “Ozark Daughter,” which will be released Oct. 29.

But if you want to tap into Manos’ true passion, ask her about her family heritage — the things that made her an “Ozark Daughter.” She is clearly proud to be a sixth-generation Arkansan, and she can trace that lineage from her paternal grandfather’s side, the Manos family, who came from Tennessee by way of Hunt County, Texas, after the Civil War.

“I’m told that my great-great grandfather, Joseph Taylor Manos (1860-1939), was a gifted horseman who also raised horses,” she begins. “His son and my great-grandfather, Willie Marshall (‘Bill’) Manos (1885-1946) served as sheriff of the Gravette area and was also a shape-note singing teacher. His son and my grandfather, Ray Dean Manos (1917-2001), was a World War II veteran … [and] a gifted baritone singer who played guitar. I’ve inherited one of his guitars and an amp, which are two of my most prized possessions. My father, Larry Dean Manos, is a retired band director who studied music (trumpet) in college and is also a gifted singer (tenor).”

The Austins, her paternal grandmother’s family, came from Bedford County, Tennessee, in 1848, and the Rankins, her maternal grandfather’s family, came to Northwest Arkansas in the person of Henderson Clark Rankin, born in Tennessee in 1822 and a veteran of the Battle of Pea Ridge. … “Coleman, Williams, and Speed are other important family names on my mother’s side that I’d love to learn more about,” she adds.

Manos says she owes her roots in the Ozarks to nurture — her grandmother, called “Sis,” wrote on the back of photographs, kept every family funeral bulletin and seemed to know everybody’s name in the old family pictures — but also to human nature. She spent two years in England in her 20s, and “that little bit of stepping away gave me some insight I don’t think I had before,” she says. “It helped me to realize what an incredible part of the country I live in and how this landscape has witnessed so many significant events and larger-than-life characters.”

Those roots and that interest inspired Manos’ 2014 MFA thesis in creative writing, a book-length collection of poems titled, “Shape-Note Singing” which she dedicated to her parents, grandparents and great-grandparents. And when Manos had funding to create her album “Ozark Daughter,” she landed on the kinds of music that her grandparents listened to and that her grandfather, Ray Dean Manos, in particular, might have performed in the 1930s and 1940s. “Three of the songs are written in ¾ waltz time and have an intentional old-country feel to them, which very much reminds me of my grandparents,” she says.

Traci Rae Manos draws on the roots her family buried deep in the Northwest Arkansas hills and valleys for the rhymes and rhythms of her upcoming album, “Ozark Daughter,” which will be released Oct. 29. (Courtesy Photo)

It was her own life — and her divorce from her husband — that inspired several of the topics addressed on the album, but “the genres I found myself drawn to were ballads, blues, honky tonk, old country — the same well-worn paths folks have found themselves on for centuries when trying to express their own griefs and losses,” she says.

“Writing songs really helped me get the hurricane of emotions I was experiencing — grief, shame, anger — out of my body. It’s really comforting to put your emotions into a song where they can live and be, apart from yourself. The song becomes its own, self-contained, living and breathing thing. It takes up a life of its own apart from the songwriter and apart from the events that originally inspired it,” she says. “It’s a comfort to be able to pick up a song, give it breath and let it ring from you, but then set it back down again and step away from it. There’s a comfort, too, in knowing that it’s there when you need it.”



Listening Party:

‘Ozark Daughter’

WHEN — 8 p.m. Oct. 29

WHERE — On the YouTube channel “Ozark Daughter Music”

COST — CDs may be preordered at $15 and vinyl at $36; “Ozark Daughter” will also be available on Spotify and other streaming platforms.




‘Ozark Daughter’:

The Songs

Manos says a couple of her favorite songs from her “Ozark Daughter” album are “Dogwood Tree” and “Half-Hearted Man,” both of which she’s already released as singles.

“Dogwood Tree,” she says, “is inspired by many of the old Ozarks, Appalachian, English and Irish ballads out there in that it tells a story. I can actually think of four old-time tunes that are referenced either lyrically or melodically in the song, but it’s more fun for listeners to figure those out than for me to tell them outright.”

Of the 13 songs on the new album, 11 were written around 2016 when she and her husband at the time were in a prolonged separation. “Greyhound Bus” was written years before — at least a decade ago,” she says, and “She Don’t Know” is the newest song, written just this year.

“Folks can listen ‘Dogwood Tree’ and ‘Half-Hearted Man’ on my Ozark Daughter YouTube, Facebook or Instagram now,” Manos adds.

Categories: Music