The Stars Motel
Blue Kitty Music
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
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
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
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 ---
www.lizmandeville.com --- for more info.