On her fourth Earwig Records release, Red Top, Liz Mandeville has dropped her married name (Greeson), but has picked up a renewed, supercharged sense of sass and self. Not that one of the most assertive blueswomen who’s ever picked up a pen or a guitar might need an additional dose of confidence, far from it. I first experienced Liz Mandeville live on the Best Buy Stage at the 2005 Chicago Blues Festival and was immediately hooked! Whether she plays her blue acoustic guitar or plugged-in Strat, Liz’s live shows are a force of nature worthy of comparisons to blueswomen like Katrina or Rita of the hurricane variety.
Liz’ show on the Front Porch Stage at 2008’s Chicago Blues Festival was a bright spot of that event’s 25th Silver Anniversary, and she showcased many cuts from Red Top, including “Illinois National Guard Blues,” a song which anyone with loved ones in the military can relate to. My Red Top favorites include the sax-drenched “Guilty of Rockin’ All Night,” “Red Top” the opening title cut, and “Corner Bar Blues,” a paean to friends who might indulge a bit too much. I’m generally not a prude, but I could have done without “Spanky Butt;” still I’m sure that it’s a real late-night crowd pleaser at Liz’s live shows.
Liz has some world-class friends helping her out on Red Top. Eddie Shaw of the Wolf Gang sits in on sax as does Rodney Brown, Twist Turner takes a turn on the drum kit, and long-time Albert Collins’ sideman Allen Batts sits in on keyboards.
This talented singer/songwriter has spent many a Blue Monday as an artist-in-residence at Kingston Mines with Earwig label-mate John Primer, and together, they’ve put on some of the best blues parties of the year at this venerable Chicago blues venue.