Review – Liz Mandeville – Chris James and Patrick Rynn

Posted on: Wednesday, Oct 8, 2008

Liz Mandeville
“Red Top”
(Earwig CD 4954)

Chris James and Patrick Rynn
“Stop and Think About It”
(Earwig CD 4957)

The latest batch of releases from Chicago’s Earwig Music again proves this is a label you can count on.

The first of a couple of quality releases here features the label’s own particular Miss Dynamite, a lady who has undergone something of a name change.

Liz Mandeville (formerly Mandville Greeson) hits home with her fourth Earwig CD, an ultra-confident self-penned collection of blues, swing and soul, all delivered with her gorgeous vocal, sometimes silk, sometimes sandpaper, usually earthy and sexy – and always just right. Add in her own suitably expressive guitar work and several top Chicago session men to augment her regular band and you have quality underpinning the whole set.

With titles like “Spanky Butt,” “Rub My Belly,” and “Scratch the Kitty,” then ‘sassy’ just doesn’t cover it but two cuts featuring tenor sax legend Eddie Shaw are among the highlights too. “Hold Me” has Mandeville ditching the innuendo for a slow burning soul ballad while “Guilty of Rockin’ All Night is a fast driving sax/vocal duet.

Even better is Stop And Think About It by San Diego duo Chris James (vocal/guitar) and bass man Patrick Rynn who score an absolute bullseye with an enjoyable classy set which, while hardly ground-breaking, is a convincing mix of ’50s-style Chicago and their own truly excellent fare, in which you can’t really see the join.

Top-notch guitarist James, in particular, wears his heart on his sleeve.  There are no fewer than four Elmore James covers here and it isn’t long before we hear that signature slide, but these aren’t album-fillers, the joy which the duo obviously get from reworking these classics pervades the whole set.

Blistering opener, James-Rynn’s own “You’re Gone” soon feature James’ perfectly-framed vocal and then reveals the calibre of guest musician they are able to call on to enhance this excellent release as Bob Corritore’s harmonica first offers a wonderfully wailing duet and then a standout solo. Check out, too, Julien Brunetaud’s piano which helps the duo’s joyous grab-it-and-squeeze-it version of Elmore’s “Hawaiian Boogie” bounce along with panache. The proud tradition is further enhanced with “Confessin’ the Blues.” I always recall an early love with the cocky sleaze of the Stones’ ’64 version on their Five by Five EP. But here rolling piano turns it into something more akin to the 1941 Jay McShann/Walter Brown original.
Similarly, their take on “Mona” is  a delightful tremelo-driven chugging tour de force.

John Bottomley

All Earwig CDs are available mail order.  Check out Red Lick Records, or the Earwig online store.



October 8th, 2008 at 19:09
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Nice work Mr. Bottomley!



October 9th, 2008 at 20:20
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Saw Liz on the Backporch Stage at the Chicago Blues Fest this year – she was dynamite! In fact, I was so impressed, afterwards I waited in line to get my CD autogrpahed like some starstruck teenager!