Saturday, January 5, 2013

Liz Mandeville's 2012 Year In Review

Dearest Readers, Friends and Fans!

It's been a year since my last post and a lot has happened.

2012 started with a series of fund raising gigs and a  trip to Memphis with my then partner and co-winner of the Windy City Blues Challenge, Donna Herula to represent Chicago in the International Blues Challenge. Donna and I made it through three rounds to become semi-finalists in the duo category. Big thanks go out to Linda Cain, Mad-Dog & Nina of the WCBS, Donna's family and Lon Mickelson for coming along to support us. We went on to play Buddy Guys' Legends, Reggie's Music Room, the Ice Melting Blues Festival, the Chicago Blues Fest, the Alpena MI. Blues Fest, Portage Perchfest, Maxwell Street Market (Thanks to the City Of Chicago Office of Special Events) the 20th Annual Creekfest Reunion, and the Mississippi Valley Blues Festival before parting ways to pursue our own musical paths.

2012 was also the year I started my new record label, Blue Kitty Music, at the suggestion of my long time musical friend, Grammy Winning Drummer/Bandleader,  Willie "Big Eyes" Smith. In April 2011, Smith, Darryl Wright & I went in the studio and cut the first five tracks for our new venture. They turned out to be the final tracks of his recording life. As you may know, Willie was stricken with health problems a short time later and by September he had passed away, so those five tracks and Willie's "Just Do It!" attitude became the hallmark and  inspiration for our future recordings. Those included sessions with Legendary Sax man, Eddie Shaw, pianist Leandro Lopez-Varady, guitarists' Nick Moss, Rockin Johnny Burgin, Peter Struijk, Donna Herula and Jim Godsey. Thanks to Planet10 Studios, Jimmy Johnson and JBG Audio for all your help and knowledge.

In May we released the first Blue Kitty Music CD, Clarksdale, which was met by great reviews, lots of international airplay and respectable charting, thanks in part to our wonderful publicist, Frank Roszak. Clarksdale is available for sale at www.CDBaby,com/cd/lizmandeville1 and at all Liz gigs!  Thanks to Hambone (aka Scott Hammer) on WDCB for having me and my husband, bassist Carl Uchiyama, play live on his blues show, what fun! Thanks to publicist Lynn Orman for her assist. I also returned to the Blues Music Awards in Memphis in May to network and carry on blues woman style. Thanks to Nick Moss for inviting me to sit in on his show at the Rum Boogie along with JP Soars and Terry Hank. That was a blast!

2012 was also a big year for collaborative efforts. I was part of four different incredible shows with many great Chicago artists. In the Spring I was honored to be part of the cast of The Voices of Chicago, produced by Chicago Cabaret Artist most excellent, Darryl Nitz. The show, which was hosted by the Mayne Stage, featured great songs from all genres of music, written by historical Chicagoan's performed by electrifying artists from today's Chicago music scene. I had a ball working with Kimberly Gordon, Denise Thomasello, Lynne Jordan and a host of others.
Then later in Spring and again in Mid Summer, Joan Gand produced more of her wonderful Chicago Women In Blues shows. Our catch phrase "10 Diva's for 10 Dollars" is more than accurate! Dia Madden, Peaches Statten, Hollee Thee Maxwell and I are always on the show with a revolving cast of female talent that might feature Demetria Taylor, Vivian Vance Kelly, Shirley King, or, well, you get the picture. The first show, a big charity fund raiser, was held at the new Vipers Alley Club in Lincolnwood. That was followed in June by our 2nd legendary show at Reggies during the Chicago Blues Festival, and in August we put on a barn burning show at SPACE in Evanston. Thanks to the Blue Road Band for backing up all us Women!
November 6th was a nail-biter of a show held election eve. Chicago Blues Mamas For Obama, produced by Fran Allen-Leake and Lynn Ormann filled the Mayne Stage with heartfelt blues. A different line-up than either CWIB's or the VOC, this show also featured the voice of SiriusXMBlues, Big LLou, and Cookie Taylor, daughter to the late Queen of the Blues as MC's. Nellie Travis, Dietra Farr, Katherine Davis and Tracee Adams were just 4 of the pantheon of Diva's who performed with an all star band. I was sure in good company that night! Thanks to all who put these shows together and made them successful.

We had a SRO crowd for the Clarksdale CD release party at Buddy Guys Legends, Chicago in August. The band was made of musicians who'd contributed to the making of the CD with Lewis Powell sitting in the drum throne formerly occupied by Willie Smith. The audience was made up of friends, family and some folks who've supported my music over the last 3 decades! Thanks to the staff at Buddy's for all your help and to all my peeps who made the party memorable just by being there.

We also launched a new website at, designed by Darlene Wright and edited by Diane Stojentin, who also shot the video on the "Workshop Page" of the new website. This is the place to find out the latest gigs, shows, news, to hear music and see videos or to book me! I need lots of good work now, being a Diva is expensive!

In September, Dutch Blues Producer/Guitarist, Peter Struijk, flew over to Chicago to produce tracks for his next release on the Blueshine Label. The traditional, Delta style tracks featured the guitar of Rockin' Johnny Burgin and a new, original song written and performed by Ms Liz Mandeville (that's ME) with Burgin and Struijk on guitars. We also did a gig together, with special guests Mary Lane, Crankshaft and Peter Harpman Marijkedulk at the Lizard Lounge in Chicago.

Rockin Johnny and Peter Struijk also laid the rhythm tracks for the 2nd Blue Kitty Music Release. One song only, "Watch Out For Santa" is a holiday blues with a whole lotta soul, thanks in part to Martin Lang who added the perfect classic Chicago blues harp and vocal asides to my 12-bar loping lump! I released this tune (which is available only until tomorrow BTW, get it NOW!!) for a limited time only, to help raise funds for the Red Cross Super-storm Sandy Releif Fund. You can get this special release at CDBaby.com It's only a dollar, but every cent counts.

October found me piling into the new Honda Touring Van, Pearl, and headed down to Clarksdale MS for a round of CD release parties, thanks to my friends Theo & Cindy at the Rock & Blues Museum, Art, Carol and Amanda at the Blues Berry Cafe and Stan & Dixie Street at the Hambone Gallery. Also a big shout out to Darryl Wright who came along to play bass, Roz Wilcox who played drums, Lon Mickelson who provided introductions, Robin Lane who played folk instruments he created and Sean "Bad" Apple who provided rhythm & charm galore. Sean gets the ladies to "Shake that thing" where ever he plays!
Thanks to my old friend the Legendary Sonny Payne, DJ on The King Biscuit Hour, Helena AK, for inviting me to be a guest on his show and to my new friends Paul & Bobbie Wilson WROX AM&FM in Clarksdale, for the support, interviews and Honolulu hook-up.
I also participated in the filming of the King Biscuit Blue Festival, my third year of running a camera for my friends Gary & Carol Vincent, and got to see some amazing talent through the lens.
We followed that week of music and merry/moneymaking with a trip to Louisiana for a networking and fun. In New Orleans I played my washboard and sang with Waylon Thibedeoux the Cajun Fiddler on Bourbon Street while staying with new friend Helene Shaw who also accompanied us to Houma LA where we attended the Voice of the Wetlands Fest. Special thanks go out to Herbert and Allie for hosting us again in Houma, may God Bless YOU.

In November, back in Chicago, I started hosting the Thirsty Thursday Full Band Pro Jam at the Water Hole in Chicago, which will happen the last Thursday of every month. We also returned for Holiday Music at the Airport, thanks to the City of Chicago Dept of Aviation., as we do every Thanksgiving and Christmas. We released "Watch Out For Santa" in November too!

Ah, December! Because my friend Kristjian trained and ran the Chicago Marathon with the "Team To End AIDS/HIV", (a group of dedicated athletes who run marathons to raise awareness and money to fight that dreaded disease) and did so well he was invited to run in Honolulu. At the same time KTUH FM DJ Steve Stoddard was spinning Clarksdale in regular rotation. So I contacted Steve to say "Thanks!" and ended up traveling to Honolulu and playing a series of gigs with local musicians there. Kristjian ran the marathon in 4:17 and then stayed to accompany me to gigs with Kevin Coleman and the Flat Five at On Stage Drinks & Grinds & Anna O'Brien's as well as radio appearances on the Perry & Price Show, KSSK and Something Blue, KTUH. Special thanks go out to Steve & Libby Stoddard, Dr.John Hart PhD. and Mailee, the staff at the Imperial Hawaiian Honolulu, for a wonderful and rewarding experience Mahalo and Aloha to you all!

Meanwhile, all year long I've continued to DJ for the Blues Show, WNUR-FM, one Sunday a month. Thanks to Mike Baum for offering me that honor! Just this year I've been lucky enough to interview Tommy Castro, Mike Zitto, Bettye LaVette and Dan Hicks and to spin new and old blues music with nobody telling me what I had to play. I've also continued to write interviews and reviews for my good friend Linda Cain's fine publication, The Chicago Blues Guide   This is where you can read my reviews of CD's & live shows from John Mayall to Lee Ritenour. This free, totally online e-zine (no trees are sacrificed for the CBG!) covers the best blues in Chicago written by blues insiders. Linda proudly told me we are now receiving more than 20,000 unique hits per month!

All year while doing all this, I was also caring for my soldier husband who was injured while serving in a Mulit-National Peace-keeping mission and required three separate surgeries that kept him laid up for the better part of the year. I'm happy to serve this man who means so much to me, who has taught me so much and who continues to be my greatest source of strength and encouragement as a man. I thank GOD that he is now healthy and has returned to duty, but it sure was fun having him home. His military career was the source of inspiration for several of my new songs from Clarksdale, including the ballad "A Soldiers' Wife" and the anthem for our women warriors, "My Mama Wears Combat Boots."

WOW! What a year, no wonder I'm tired. I hope all you who read this know how much I appreciate you. Thank you for being a big part of my life. If I've forgotten to thank you Bill Wax, Jimi Patricola, Frank John Hadley, my sister Robin, Eric Steiner, Mike O'Cull, thanks! If I've forgotten to thank you, please consider that I love you and appreciate all you've done even if you didn't see your name here. GOD bless you.
Liz Mandeville