Monday, January 2, 2017

Liz Mandeville Wants You to Check In To The Stars Motel

Seems like I’m correcting mistakes right and left at the moment. This album was on my list of Best Of 2016, but when I was writing it up I somehow overlooked the CD and it got left off. So consider this my official inclusion to the list and I will be accepting applications for a volunteer checker and editor shortly.
THE STARS MOTEL is a fun collection that started out as Liz Mandeville wondering about writing with some other performers. If you put a question like that out to the universe, you just might get an answer, and Mandeville did, in the form of friends needing a place to stay while they were working in Chicago.
She had the room, and the only payment necessary was to co-write and record three songs.
Considering what I had to pay for a not that great hotel room the last time I was in the Windy City, it sounds like a bargain. Mandeville eventually worked with Scott Ellison, Dario Lombardo, Rachelle Coba, and Minoru Maruyama. Three songs from each, minus one from Maruyama that Mandeville is saving for her next album, and you have eleven new songs with different approaches and styles.
Will Mandeville be up to the task as she adapts her playing and singing to reflect these changes? I’m happy to report that she is not just up to the challenge, she exceeds it and produces an outstanding album that is a lot of fun to listen to over and over again.
Aside from Mandeville and her four co-conspirators, she is joined by Matt Kohl, Matt Cartwright, Heather Tackett Faludo, Darryl Wright, and Jon Parris on bass; Robbie Armstrong and Andy Sutton on drums; Joan Gand on B-3 and piano; Steve Hart on tuba; Alex Leong and Johnny Cotton on trombone; Jim Godsey on percussion; Jeannie Tanner on trumpet; Charlie Kimble on sax; Dizzy Bolinsky on harp; and Doug Deming on guitar.
Ellison and Mandeville start off the album on a swinging note with Too Hot For Love. Yeah, nothing like trying to force your attention on a partner who just wants to be left alone in the heat and humidity. Mandeville’s vocals are good, and Ellison’s guitar mixes well with Gand’s B-3.
Things get a little funky on her first collaboration with Dario Lombardo, Blues Is My Boss. Two songs in and each song has a decidedly different feel. Even Mandeville’s vocals have taken on a harder edge and this is a song you know is going to get a lot of airplay. Lombardo and Mandeville trade off on leads and the song is very strong.
Her first collaboration with Rachelle Coba has a distinctive zydeco flavor. Everybody Knew But Me is a raucous number that you know will get people up out of their chairs and onto the dancefloor. This one is a lot of fun and expect to hear it soon on Time For The Blues.
Mandeville slows things down but keeps the intensity up with her first of two numbers with Minoru Maruyama, One Dance. This is a smoking torch number that lets Mandeville pour all of her emotions into the song. One of the best on this already great album.
Her second partnering with Coba, Try Me, takes on a Jordinaires vibe with the backing vocals, and Mandeville purrs her way through this teasing number. It’s got a lot of sass and attitude, and is going to be a real crowd pleaser.   
Next up is Truth, another song co-written with Minoru Maruyama. This is a blistering number with an edge. It would be easy to see some of the great shouters back in the day tearing through this number, but Mandeville puts her stamp on it. Bolinsky’s harp adds another dimension to the song.
Next up is Mandeville and Lombardo teaming up on Reefer And A Glass Of Wine, which is a brassy ode to relaxation. I love this song and have already got it scheduled to play on Time For The Blues (in fact, I think all of her collaborations with Lombardo are scheduled). Swing along with Liz and Dario!
Things slow down on her next number with Ellison, What Could Have Been. It’s a beautiful late night number as you hold your partner close on the dance floor. Once again, Gand’s B-3 adds just the right touch to the song. It’s sort of an early rock and roll sound, but oh, so good.
Her last song written with Lombardo, Bad Blues Habit, has a solid groove and some clever lyrics. Again, it’s a fun song that basically pulls out all of the stops. Listen for Gand’s barrelhouse piano and Bolinsky’s harp to punctuate Lombardo’s guitar.
Her last number with Coba is River Of Blood, a swamp infested dark song that grabs your attention right away. This is the kind of song you can listen to at noon on the sunniest day of the year and still look over your shoulder to see what’s coming out of the shadows. Very cool song and Mandeville does some nice things with her guitar and her vocals.
She ends the song the way she started, teaming up with Ellison on What Do Blues Men Like?. She swings through a number that adds a dash of blues to a dance number that might seem at home with some of the great girl groups of the ‘40’s. It’s a solid, fun number and a good way to end this delightful crazy quilt of an album.

You can find out so much more about this dynamite performer at her website, Feel free to check out her previous releases and you can check to see where she will be out on tour. I don’t know if she’s closed down her basement motel, but I for one, hope that if she has, she’ll open it up again sometime and let’s listen to the great music that is sure to come from it!

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