Whether as a solo performer or a member of delightful all-star side project The Living Sisters, Eleni Mandell has one of those timeless voices that would be at home in any era. Latest project “Dark Lights Up,” her 10th studio album, certainly ranks among her better offerings — which is saying something for a woman who has yet to deliver a subpar record.
The 12-track “Dark Lights Up” was inspired by a 2014 visit to the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville. “It was a profound experience for me,” she says of studying exhibits featuring musical heroes like Hank Williams, George Jones, Tammy Wynette, Buck Owens and Roger Miller. “Seeing all their lyrics and guitars on display made me reflect on just how deeply I’d been influenced by classic country.”
There are shades of that influence throughout a stripped-down 40-minute album that could have been recorded in the 1950s or ‘60s. Mandell sets the tone with “I’m Old Fashioned” and “What Love Can Do.” The standouts continue with “China Garden Buffet,” “Town Called Heartache,” “Magic Pair of Shoes,” “If You Wanna Get Kissed” and “Butter Blonde and Chocolate Brown.” Highly recommended. (Jeffrey Sisk)