Blues Bytes


September 2016

Liz Mandeville
The Stars Motel
Blue Kitty Music

Liz Mandeville

Chicago-based singer Liz Mandeville gathered a whole bunch of her good musician friends over several years, putting them up at the figurative The Stars Motel (Blue Kitty Music). The result is a really fine album showcasing her sassy vocals and a full quota of hot guitar accompaniment.

Actually, this particular "stars motel" turns out to be Mandeville's basement studio, where she offered free accommodations to various guitar heroes in exchange for co-writing and recording several compositions. So now you can see what she was trying to accomplish here. Sounds like a good deal for everyone involved.

Mandeville kicks off her disc with a mid-tempo shuffle, "Too Hot For Love," co-written with guest guitarist Scott Ellison. Not only do Mandeville and Ellison team up well in the songwriting department, but they also compliment each other well throughout this number. Joan Gand's excellent work on the B-3 also stands out. Next up is a Chicago-style number, "Blues Is My Boss," done in conjunction with Italian guitarist Dario Lombardo.

The third guest at the Mandeville pad is Rachelle Coba, with their first co-product being the New Orleans-ish "Everybody Knew But Me." Andy Sutton lays down the appropriate Crescent City second line drum beat, along with great trombone from Alex Leong and tuba from Steve Hart.

Our last guitarist to shack up in Liz's Chicago blues den is Japanese artist Minora Maruyama, coming in with the soulful "One Dance," a slow tune with plenty of tortured vocals by Mandeville, tasteful guitar licks from our featured guest, and solid horn accompaniment from trumpeter Jeannie Tanner, trombonist Johnny Cotton and sax man Charlie Kimble. Maruyama really wrings every emotion out of his guitar here. And let's not overlook more exquisite B-3 playing from Gand.

Each of the four guitarists returns for a few more songs each, with a total of 11 cuts making up this album. One of my favorites, "Truth," is highlighted by Mandeville's vocals soaring through the scales and demanding a truthful answer from someone in her life. It's another mid-tempo shuffle with a scintillating guitar break from Maruyama and great blues harp from Dizzy Bolinsky.

The jazzy jump blues "Reefer and a Glass of Wine," co-written with Lombardo, is a fun number that gives the horn section a chance to excel. Still another fine guest guitarist, Doug Deming, shows up in Mandeville's studio to help out here with good lead work, getting a more resonant sound out of his instrument --- what a hot, hot solo!

An album like this would be lacking without a slow, tortured blues, and Mandeville and Ellison share songwriting credits on "What Could Have Been." This tune features a more stripped down ensemble, with Mandeville handling guitar duties alongside Gand on B-3, Matt Kohl on bass, and Robbie Armstorng on drums.

Mandeville perhaps saves the best for last, the jumping "What Do Blues Men Like," with Ellison handling guitar work here. It's a pretty truthful number in declaring that blues men pretty much like everything and anything when it comes to their women --- "... a blues man likes fat girls and old girls, sisters with a 'whole lot of soul' girls, wide girls and narrow girls ... small girls, tall girls, flat out 'having a ball' girls ....a blues man likes vintage girls and skinny girls ... girls that dance and girls that jiggle, a blues man likes women that do nothing but giggle ...." She also chimes in that every blues man is a walking democracy and that no one looks at the personality. Yeah, she pretty much covers every type of girl here and hits the nail on the head.

The Stars Motel comes highly recommended for all fans of the blues --- once you're there, you won't want to check out of this particular motel room. Check Liz's wesite --- --- for more info.

--- Bill Mitchell



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