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Michelle Mangione - Life Beneath the Sun

Life Beneath the Sun

Michelle Mangione

Available from CD Baby.

A review written for the Folk &am,p; Acoustic Music Exchange
by Mark S. Tucker

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No, she's not related to the famous trumpet/flugelhorn player—though she does sometimes wear a t-shirt emblazoned with 'Chick Mangione'—but, from the opening measures of the first cut, I've Become, you realize there's a quality that sets her apart. A one-woman band (though the CD sports several sessioneers, Mangione plays guitars, drums, percussion, bass, organ, and even arranges the cellos on one cut), her hottest side occurs on the six-string as she peals out some very enticing riffs, strums, and finger-picked chords. At times, her melodies seem reminiscent of David Wilcox and Loggins & Messina but are more downbeat and introspective, moodier, matched by I-know-life lyrics. Her organ playing is Al Kooperish, lending a dusky American flavor in many places, also a touch like Levon Helm in his Band days.

Don't put this disc on for housecleaning or washing the clothes, as you'll end up in a navel-gazing funk, pleasantly bemused but definitely not motivated to lark and trill though fields of daisies and hummingbirds. Mangione favors the melancholy and bittersweet in life, pondering the emotional meaning of it all. One of the coolest lines I've heard in ages occurs in the third cut: "What should we do about the rain?". Another one goes "I remember chasing Jupiter". The girl has a knack for turning phrases but it isn't her lyrics that strike the listener so much as the tone of resigned honesty and forlorn hope in her singing. Occasionally, there's a wisp of Melissa Ethridge, a streak of Robin Batteau, and her progressions are not hook-laden but rather slow dramas, dissertations on various thematics, building the sonic narratives.

Grace Slick provided the cover painting, an existential figure portraiture, and the stand-out cut is Lies and Comfort, a lush after-the-rain 6-minute-plus tune somewhat tracing the homier side of The Waterboys and Talk Talk's last laconic releases. I Can't Decide is drop-dead perfectly poised for radio play, a bit Indigo Girls-ish with beautiful electric guitar lines by Nancy Lucas, and Interlude displays an instrumental side that should see much wider play in her next release, as should the ornamental string sections of Little Genius, which betray a decorative sense otherwise hidden. This is a very good mixed-bag of folk, modern novo-blues, and soft rock with wispy jazz and light classical touches topped off by an electric hidden track, rockier than anything that came before, more gutsy by half, and sharply inflected, something of a shock in its boozy insistence, a paean that sparks up Mangione like a cat prowling for little midnight voodoo.

Track List:

  • I've Become
  • America the Blue
  • What Should We Do
  • Prisoner of War
  • Lies and Comfort
  • Jupiter
  • U Can't Decide
  • Man with a Gun
  • Interlude
  • Little Genius
  • Train
All songs written by Michelle Mangione.

Edited by: David N. Pyles

Copyright 2007, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.

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