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Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Liz Mandeville: Conduit to the Blues

Ever the go-getter, Chicagoan Liz Mandeville related this tale to TMGR: "I woke up one day and said, 'What am I going to do if for some unforeseeable reason I am no longer able to sing? What am I going to do then?'" Come to find out Liz is of the rare breed who then goes out to find another style of music to play, one that relies heavily on serious instrumentation. In this case it was early Piedmont-style acoustic blues guitar. But not only did she learn it, she actually got good at it. Ever the songwriter, Liz even penned a couple of tunes while woodshedding with her guitar. In addition to the songwriting workshops she conducts around the country, she was nominated for Best Blues Songwriter of the Year 2008 by the American Roots Music Association. "Words are bridges to basic instincts; they make you want to know more," Mandeville notes from her home in Chicago. She counts the songs of Melissa Etheridge, Lucinda Williams, and Sheryl Crow among her songwriting inspirations. "They tell stories with their songs, of course and they're revelatory, but they have a hard edge to them to go along with their universality." Mandeville has been with the Earwig blues label for many years, and credits owner Michael Robert Frank with gentle prodding ever so often to get her to reinvent herself; to keep her moving forward musically and otherwise. The result: she is more than just an blues diva powerhouse with painting endeavors and music column writing to help round things out. "I'm an observer at the core. Through my songs the listener gets to see what I have seen and heard, be it in my voice, on my guitar, or through a painting. " A consummate entertainer with 20 years experience, she is sexy and sassy, a Mistress of Tasteful Bawdiness calling things out as they really are in the world. Nowadays Liz feels the need more than ever to connect on a deeper level with her audience in order to make the experience more worthwhile for all. "I'm there to make sure the happy animal comes out in people. I want to connect on a gut level. When I perform I want you to dance, to feel rhythm, to express yourself-to work up a good sweat. I want to conjure up the positive effect music can have the entire being," she says."After they have a couple of drinks, it's like okay, now we know each other. Now we trust each other. If I have it my way the audience will have access to everything I've experienced in my life," she continues. As for the approach she and her band use when working on songs for the set: "We try to reinvent the song to fit the band and then we work the groove. It's like a musical adventure. By doing songs differently each time we try to keep the feeling fresh and in the moment." Liz Mandeville and her world-class band The Blue Points will have you dancing and really feeling it deep on Saturday when they play the Cabin Fever Blues Series at Billy's in support of Liz's most recent release Red Top (Earwig). Mandeville has appeared in West Michigan previously at the Silver Cloud (GR), The B.O.B., Martini's (now Billy's), Winterfest (Grand Haven), and Creekfest (Newaygo). "I've seen a thousand performances. I've gone to check out people I might never go see just to see what it is about them, what is it that makes them so popular. Then I try to incorporate that into what I do. I try to provide the humor and sophistication. I'm really lucky to be doing what I'm doing."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Right on, Chet! You really nailed it. Your writing is beautiful & a pleasure to read.