Playing with Fire
Blue Kitty Music
Inspired by both Koko Taylor and Luther Allison; Liz Mandeville relocated to Chicago in 1979. She started working with both Delmark recording artist Willie Kent, and Alligator recording artist Maurice John Vaughn. She started her own band in 1983. Mandeville has won numerous songwriting awards and only records her own songs. She signed with Earwig Records and recorded four albums the last being 2008’s “Red Top”. In 2012 Mandeville started her own label, Blue Kitty Music, and released “Clarksdale”. Follow up albums include 2014’s “Heart O’ Chicago” and 2016’s “The Stars Motel”.
In November 2016, less than three months’ after the release of “The Stars Motel”, Mandeville was in a car accident and suffered a concussion to her frontal lobe. She was told that she wouldn’t perform again as she also had contusions in her heart and chest, and nerve damage to both hands. She was placed on morphine, and later sent home with a script for Oxycodone. She couldn’t work, sing or play guitar. She eventually gave up the Oxy which she replaced with acupuncture, Chinese Herbs and eventually yoga. It took six months but she finally performed her first gig; “I was able to sing for one hour”.
“Playing with Fire” is an album that almost wasn’t made. Her friend Betz Steichen started her a Go-Fund me page and she thanks everyone who contributed. Reflecting on the ordeal she says she feels like George Bailey in the movie “It’s A Wonderful Life”. Mandeville took some chances and started working on this album in July of 2017. Included are five sessions recorded over a three-year period. Mandeville collaborated with musicians from Italy, Japan, France, Holland and the U.S.
That first July session was with Italian guitarist Dario Lombardo with whom Mandeville collaborated with on “The Stars Motel”. Three songs were re-corded with a band featuring co-writer Lombardo, guitar and slide; Mandeville, guitar and vocal; Anne Harris, violin; Steve Hart, bass; and either Andy Sutton or engineer Joe Godsey, drums. On the first two songs “Bailing The Titanic” and “Online Love Affair” Sutton played drums; while Godsey sat behind the kit on “Everybody Got Wings”.
The second session was in February 2018 with co-writer and Dutch guitarist Peter Struijk. Four traditionally styled songs were recorded including my favorite “Poor Robert Johnson”; “Joliet Town”; “Boss Lady” featuring Johnny Burgin on guitar, and “Hey Babe Ya Wanna Boogie” with bassist Hart also on tuba.
Japanese guitarist Minoru Maruyama is a member of Mandeville’s band “The Blue Points” and played on 2014’s “Heart O’ Chicago”. He also played and co-wrote two songs included on “The Stars Motel”. He co-wrote the fabulous “Comfort Food Blues”, a great autobiographical lyric written and sung by Mandeville, with drummer Sutton and bassist Darryl Wright.
French guitarist Philippe Fernandez a.k.a. Big Dez collaborated with Mandeville on “Keep On Workin’”; “I Just Cry”; and “How Many Times (Do You Get To Break My Heart)” with backing singers Bass, Johnny Cotton, Jeannie Tanner, and Charlie Kimble. Featured on harmonica is Gilles Gabisson.
Mandeville wrote both the words and music on two additional songs on which she is accompanied by blues fiddle sensation Ilana Katz Katz. These songs are sure to garner a lot of airplay. On “He Loves My Biscuits” Mandeville is joined on the vocal by her husband Carl Uchiyama. The other “female” song is “Just Give Her Chocolate”.
Mandeville thanks all the musicians who participated. She adds “sometimes God just thumps you on the head, and you step back to look at your life. That certainly happened to me…they say what don’t kill you makes you stronger. True, I had to fight my way back, but now I’m so much stronger in every way than I was before”. “I’m an artist…I’m grateful for every opportunity to entertain, whether it’s in Europe or …down at the local American Legion Post. I’m grateful for being able to play guitar again. Having that taken away from me made me work hard to be a better communicator on the instrument. This is the most fun I ever had playing on an album. You have two choices in life. You can play it passive or Play with Fire. I’m bringing the heat.
It’s so good to have Liz Mandeville back.