Monday, September 15, 2008

Red Top reviewed by Mark Thompson

Red Top
Liz Mandeville
Earwig Records
15 tracks/59:06

Liz Mandeville (formerly Greeson) has a career that has spanned two decades as a blues road warrior. Her fourth release on Earwig should raise her profile in the blues community. Using a collection of musicians who have been members or currently are part of her touring aggregation, she has put together a strong collection that clearly illustrates the breadth of her talent.

There are a couple of local connections as Brother Dave Kaye handles the bass on six tracks and Rodney Brown, who frequently sits in on area jam sessions, adds his tenor sax to five cuts. Another legendary sax player, Eddy Shaw, appears on two tracks.

Whether it's the horn-driven swing of the title track or the down-in-the-alley "Dog No More," Mandeville has the vocal chops to grab your attention and never let go. She can belt it out with power and grit on "My Baby's Her Baby Too" or be a sultry chanteuse who expertly delivers the sassy lyrics of "Scratch The Kitty," which also features Liz on lead guitar.

"Hold Me" is a remarkable performance of a smoldering soul ballad that finds Mandeville pouring out her hurt in a voice wracked with pain. She explores hurt of a different nature when her leaves her and ends up in Iraq on "Illinois National Guard Blues." But Liz isn't afraid to have a good time and cut loose, as is evident on "Guilty of Rockin' All Night."

The scope of Liz Mandeville's talent really hits home when you discover that she wrote every song in this engaging collection, deftly handling the variety of styles. She gets strong support from veteran musicians but this project takes off due to strength of her contributions. Well worth a listen !!!

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