Liz Mandeville moved to Chicago in 1979 and has had close ties with the city ever since. The 11 original sounds on Heart ‘o’ Chicago celebrate the iconic sounds of Chicago blues, soul and R&B. She is backed by a stellar band of Chicago performers, including guest Eddie Shaw on sax, Charlie Love on vocals, and Dizzy Bolinski and Billy Branch on harmonica. It’s energetic, engaging, often witty and a lot of fun to hear.
“Cloud of Love” starts things off with a kick as Mandeville delivers sassy soul with riveting sax from Shaw and B-3 from Joan Gand. “These Blues” gives us a torch-y blues number with a slight swing.
“Don’t Doubt My Love” has Love joining Mandeville for a duet that recalls the greats like Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell. Then we get funky with a familiar theme in blues as Mandeville confronts infidelity in “So-Called Best Friend,” featuring Branch on harmonica. Classic R&B gets a modern twist on “Quit Me On a Voice Mail,” featuring Shaw on sax and also featuring great Hammond B-3 from Gand, the two together creating a great traditional sound that matches Mandeville’s soulful delivery to provide the very up-to-date twist on the old story: getting dumped by voice mail.
Next, “Party at the End of Time” takes us back to the clubs for some jazzy blues featuring Branch on harmonica before we hit my personal favorite number, “Silver Lining (Shirley’s Blues),” an ode to stopping smoking that contains the fantastic line, “Every silver lining has a black cloud.” Irresistible!
“Tic Tok” provides a satisfying slice of soul with fabulous B-3 from Gand once again. Then Mandeville gives a resounding answer to those short-sighted people who have questioned, “Why Would a Woman Sing the Blues,” in such a way that they are not likely to ask that question again. It’s punctuated by some sassy horns.
Love joins Mandeville again for a smoking duet, “Smart Women, Foolish Choices,” about a successful businesswoman who is “a wreck” when it comes to romance. “(Life Is Like A) Wave” wraps things up with a bit of blues-rock with blistering harmonica by Bolinski.
Throughout, Mandeville’s voice is powerful and expressive as she takes us on a journey through varied styles and moods of Chicago blues. It is easy to see why she was named to the Chicago Blues Hall of Fame in 2013. This CD belongs in the collection of every fan of female blues singers or Chicago-style blues and R&B.
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