october 2008

mandevilleRED TOP
Liz Mandeville

Proving that a Liz by any other name is formidable, Chicago-based blues babe Liz Mandeville, now using her family name after recording three albums as Liz Mandville Greeson, is making a run at the big time on this assured, richly textured collection of 15 original tunes, nine of which she produced and recorded on her own, with another six steered in the studio by Earwig CEO Michael Robert Frank. No slouch on guitar, she shows a deft, expressive touch taking the lead on three numbers, with her subtle dynamics on the double-entendre gem "Scratch the Kitty" being most impressive. But Red Top is really a showcase for her ever more mature vocalizing, which is nothing short of captivating throughout. Inevitable comparisons will be made to Bonnie Raitt and Susan Tedeschi, but Mandeville is earthier than both, and sassier too. In fact, when she digs into a slow, grinding blues such as "Dog No More," or bemoans the frustrations of an adulterous affair in "My Baby's Her Baby Too," she finds herself in league with the young Koko Taylor. She can be deliciously seductive in the sly come-on that is the solo acoustic blues of "Home Cookin'" and shift into overdrive as a shouter on a hard-charging "Guilty of Rockin' All Night," one of two songs on the album blessed by the presence on sax of Chi-town veteran Eddy Shaw, who honks up a mighty storm here after contributing some wailing protests earlier on the churning plea, "Hold Me," On the latter, he's supporting Mandeville's most intense, open-hearted moment on the record, when she's totally vulnerable and nakedly needy in her expressed yearning for physical intimacy. Backed by a team of elite Chicago musicians (some of whom are her band members), Mandeville enriches her songs with R&B and gospel dynamics supplied by a backing chorus, a solid horn section, piano, organ and percussion, with congas lending an exotic flavor to several tracks, and a bongo solo injecting added spunk into the delightfully salacious stomper "Spanky Butt" (wherein Ms. Mandeville makes no bones about at least one of her preferences in extra-curricular, behind closed doors recreation). Suffice it to say this sexy redhead knows when to turn up the heat and when to burn righteously at low flame, and how to steal a few hearts along the way. A wider audience awaits her.—David McGee

Founder/Publisher/Editor: David McGee
Contributing Editors: Billy Altman, Derk Richardson
Logo Design: John Mendelsohn (www.johnmendelsohn.com)
Website Design: Kieran McGee (www.kieranmcgee.com)
Staff Photographers: Audrey Harrod (Louisville, KY; www.flickr.com/audreyharrod), Alicia Zappier (New York)
E-mail: thebluegrassspecial@gmail.com
Mailing Address: David McGee, 201 W. 85 St.—5B, New York, NY 10024