Review: Liz Mandeville – Heart ‘O’ Chicago

Posted on: Monday, Oct 20, 2014

Liz Mandeville – Heart ‘O’ Chicago

(Blue Kitty Music)

Singer and guitarist Liz Mandeville was born in Wisconsin and grew up with music around her. She first recorded with Chicago bass player Aron Burton in 1996, after performing live with him over the preceding couple of years, and has gone on to record her own material for Earwig and behind several other Chicago blues artists. This set consists of songs she wrote for Shirley Johnson – she was asked to supply nine but wrote 19, and her band helped her work out these tracks.

She has strong supporting musicians, including a three piece horn section, and she also drafts in guests Billy Branch for fine harp blowing on two tracks, veteran Eddie Shaw with his customary gutsy sax on another two, and the under-valued Charlie Love duetting with Liz on the classic 60s R&B sound of ‘Don’t Doubt My Love’ and a romping ‘Smart Women Foolish Choices’.

The approach is varied but always blues-based, with some funky material such as the opening ‘Cloud Of Love’, a cool, jazzy style on ‘These Blues (these two should make any listener appreciate just what a good singer Liz is right from the off), ‘So Called Best Friend’ is a tough blues, ‘Quit Me On A Voice Mail’ sounds like classic Muscle Shoals (think ‘I’d Rather Go Blind’), and it is followed by two rather distinctive blues in ‘Party At The End Of Time’ and ‘Silver Lining (Shirley’s Blues)’.

The organ progression on ‘Tik Tok’ reminds me of Joe Cocker’s version of ‘With A Little Help From My Friends’ – though the song itself is nothing like that! This leads into ‘Why Would A Woman Sing The Blues’ a first rate gender transformation of BB King’s hit, ‘Why I Sing The Blues’ and sporting a particularly fierce guitar solo from Liz herself. This highly recommended album closes out with a fine, Chicago club blues styled item ‘(Life Is Like A) Wave’, embellished with some notable harmonica work by Dizzy Bolinski.


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