2008-09-12On her long delayed fourth release, Liz Mandeville not only displays her new found guitar chops but rolls out fifteen self-penned tracks that showcase her versatility as both a vocalist and a songwriter. Joined by an all-star cast of Chicago musicians including Eddy Shaw on saxophone and Allen Batts on keyboards, Mandeville is by turns a tough, no-nonsense former victim who declares her independence, "Dog No More" and "Bad Man Blues", a woman who isn’t afraid to lay down the rules, "So Smart Baby", a sexy blues mama who makes her desires well known, "Spanky Butt", "Rub My Belly", "Scratch the Kitty", "Little Queen" and "Home Cookin’" (all “PG-13” to “R” rated) and a mistress with eyes on a married man who’s not going to leave his family, "My Baby’s Her Baby Too". A listen to these cuts leaves no mistake regarding her strong sense of self assurance. It’s a surprise, then, when she gives us a peek behind the strong front on "Hold Me" where her desperate plea for comfort against a painful world is heightened by Eddy Shaw’s wailing tenor sax. While the joy, pain and lust tied up in relationships fuel many of her songs, she also chronicles the perils of over consumption that lead to missing moments and a night compliments of the county jail, "Corner Bar Blues", the joy of escaping a close call, "Whoa, Whoa, Whoa" and the pain of choosing between unemployment and benefits that could get you killed, "Illinois National Guard Blues". Throughout, Mandville displays a voice that is sexy, sly, powerful and laden with honest emotion. For the most part, this is an upbeat, rocking effort with horns and a gospel choir adding ample doses of sanctified soul sweetener that will surely have even the most leaden foot tapping along. "Guilty of Rockin’ All Night" ups the party ante even further with scorching solos from Shaw that serve as the perfect fuel for Mandeville’s tale of over the top fun. Miss this party at your own risk. Smitty
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