Biography All Music Guide
All Music Guide:
Drawing a heavy influence from Tom Waits, Los Angeles hipster Eleni Mandell initiated a recording career with art-cool albums packed with her gritty, noir-ish sketches. Mandell, who was a huge fan of L.A. punkers X growing up, was raised in the Sherman Oaks region of the San Fernando Valley, and began performing out during her years as a student at Berkeley. Soon after, she fell under the mentorship of Chuck E. Weiss, the Tom Waits hobnobber (and subject of Rickie Lee Jones' "Chuck E's in Love"). In 1998, she self-financed her first release, Wishbone. The album spurred the Waits comparisons, as well as comparisons to PJ Harvey. Her next two albums, Thrill and Snakebite, continued in the mode of torchy cool, but 2003's Country for True Lovers saw a shift in Mandell's muse to classic country tunes. Inspired by such trad-country classics as Tammy Wynette's Your Good Girl's Gonna Go Bad, Mandell enlisted producer and former X guitarist Tony Gilkyson, whom she had met through Weiss. The effort, recorded in a mere two weeks with a host of L.A.'s top country-rock sessioneers (including former Lone Justice drummer Don Heffington), featured a mix of originals and covers by artists such as Merle Haggard. The sleepy and sensuous Afternoon arrived in 2004, followed by Miracle of Five in 2007 and Artificial Fire in 2009. The following year, she joined with singers Alex Lilly, Inara George, and Becky Stark in what was considered a folk supergroup called the Living Sisters. The new group released their debut album, Love to Live, in 2010 after which Mandell got back to business with her eight LP, I Can See the Future, in 2012. A second Living Sisters album, Run for Cover, appeared in 2013 and in 2014, Mandell released Let's Fly a Kite, which was produced by Nick Lowe's longtime collaborator Neil Brockbank and featured Lowe's band backing her.