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CD REVIEW -- Liz Mandeville



Blue Kitty Music

Liz Mandeville CD

By Mike O’Cull

                Liz Mandeville, Chicago’s favorite sassy red head of the blues, is back in action with the release of her fifth album, Clarksdale, which is her first CD under her own Blue Kitty Music imprint. The album was inspired by visit to the heart of the Mississippi Delta, a trip that re-connected Mandeville to the deep Southern influence that is part and parcel of the blues and re-lit the flame of her original love for the music. Her passion for and connection to the blues are obvious on this new record and Liz comes across as comfortable and confident in her skin and in her style, not singing the blues as some sort of affectation, but as someone who has become the thing she was chasing.

                Liz is a triple threat musician -- writing, singing, and playing guitar -- and all three skills are in full effect on Clarksdale. She demonstrates her ability to create new and interesting blues songs that smoothly fit into the Chicago style (“Roadside Produce Stand”, “Walking & Talking With You”) as well as penning songs that tackle subjects that have not been found in the blues before but express the modern and very real blues that many folks are experiencing right now (“A Soldiers Wife”, “My Mama Wears Combat Boots”). Far from being a throwback to the past or some kind of history lesson, Mandeville is living proof that, in the proper hands, blues music can be topical and current, addressing the concerns of today and not just what was going on when the music first came into being.

                The best thing about Clarksdale is that it packs the live-in-the-studio vibe that all the best blues records have. It comes off as a series of moments captured, rather than a bunch of sculptures created in Pro Tools, and that is what makes it so much fun to listen to. The players on the record are some of the best the blues has to offer, including legendary drummer Willie ‘Big Eyes’ Smith from Muddy Waters’ band who, sadly, passed away before the record was complete. It was, in fact, Willie who encouraged Liz to start her own label. The lineup also includes another triple threat artist, Nick Moss, on guitar, along with slide guitarist Donna Herula, bassist Darryl Wright, and Howlin’ Wolf sax man Eddie Shaw. These folks get behind Liz and her songs in a big way and really help make the party happen.

           This is absolutely a career-making record for Liz, the best work she has done, and it is clear that the choices to do things her way and follow her own creative instincts are the right choices for her at this point. Blues fans: buy this record and go see Liz play live. She is a great talent and one of the nicest people in the blues scene and, after five albums, still packs so much energy into her music that it feels like she is just getting started.

For more info, visit:

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Dave Specter & Eddie Shaw, Sept. 20 at SPACE, Evanston
Liz Mandeville CD
Liz Mandeville's new CD Clarksdale features 11 originals with Willie 'Big Eyes' Smith, Eddie Shaw & Nick Moss. Buy now on cdbaby
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