Rising Stars [Issue
Miracle Of One By
miracle of five
Theres a good critical buzz around Eleni Mandells new album, Miracle
Of Five. Some of that buzz compares her to other female singer-songwriters
like Laura Cantrell and Norah Jones. But Eleni Mandell is her own person and her
style is rooted in some unique concepts, among them the unusual fact (in todays
high-tech world) that she plays a nylon stringed acoustic guitar.
I like the sound of a nylon stringed guitar, says Eleni, on the phone
from a tour stop in Seattle, Its not loud, but its very warm.
I mostly play steel string but I found this beautiful 1956 Martin nylon stringed
guitar in Arizona a couple of years ago when I was on tour. That was primarily
what I was writing on when I wrote this record.
The songs on Miracle Of Five have a sound that is not only warm, but might also
be characterized as old-fashioned. The opening track, Moonglow, Lamp Low
has a honky-tonk style reminiscent of the 1930s. I definitely agree that
my music is very nostalgic. My whole life is crammed with nostalgia. I wear mostly
vintage clothes or I make them. [But] I have no interest in living in a time warp.
I really love music from the past but I also love music from the 60s, 70s,
80s. I dont feel that my music is retro or any less contemporary than
The album in fact shifts gears quickly, with My Twin, a song with
lyrics that evoke many recent headlines about disasters: Why did that train
derail / 210 victims were killed / Was my twin among the dead?
I wasnt referring to any disasters specifically, says Eleni.
Just all the bad news in general. I had read the headlines and was laying
in the living room looking out the window and thinking about the possibility of
finding true love and wondering if that person would be derailed.
Not a very cheery thought but its one of my favorites on the record.
While the instrumentation provided by the nylon stringed Martin may be soft and
warm, Eleni wanted some stronger accents for her songs. To this end she recruited
some musicians known for rock riffs, including X drummer DJ Bonebrake on vibes
and electric guitar by Wilcos Nels Cline. Hes a good friend
of my drummer, Kevin Fitzgerald. The two of them were in a band called the Geraldine
Fibbers. I asked Kevin if he felt that Nels might consider working on the record
and he said hed love to do it. I felt very lucky that he happened to be
in town and was willing to bring his instruments over and spend time with us.
We worked him pretty hard!
Eleni Mandell grew up in the San Fernando Valley in the Los Angeles area. She
studied violin and piano early on, switched to guitar when she was interested
in punk, and began writing songs. She says she didnt take the
idea of being a musician seriously however, until she met and performed for the
legendary Chuck E. Weiss. I sang a song for him. And he took one look at
me and said, Youre going to be a musician. And it rang true
- and I started on my path.
Over the years, Eleni Mandell has paid her dues singing in clubs and recording
six albums. When asked what she considers to be a turning point in
her career, she observes that a turning point hasnt really happened yet.
I have a Canadian label [Zedtone Records] and [the label manager, Ian Pierson]
is extremely generous, but its not a major label. I dont know if Ive
reached a turning point. I definitely feel that Ive been on a slow climb
for a really long time and Im really enjoying every step of the way.
miracle of five