Michael Mandrell is an artistic and passionate contemporary American fingerstyle guitarist with an ear for the creative side of the world fusion genre. Returning and Returned offers equal parts world and new age, an array of middle Eastern rhythms and scales, with tinges of folk and an infusion of Celtic overtones.
He is one of those rare artists who has a strong sense of his Western musical roots, yet can make beautiful and sophisticated forays into the music of the East. "The Great Spiral Dance" is a great collection of his compositions that covers a wide range of styles - and he excels in each. Michael's guitar playing is extraordinary. His tunes are lyrical—the stuff fairy tales are made of. They are slightly jazzy, seductively smooth and consistently beautiful. His intricate fretboard work and technique reflect an artist of vast creativity and a pan-global vision of the instrument he loves.
As Public Radio International’s “Echoes” executive producer Kimberly Hass observes:
“Michael’s hybrid guitar style reveals a guitarist of eclectic sensibilities and delicate technique. His music circles the globe in imagistic compositions…..”
He has produced and collaborated on six CDs of which several feature his original compositions recorded and arranged with world instruments. He has twice been featured on PRI’s Echoes with host John Diliberto, and has made a wide variety of radio appearances. His tunes have been used in numerous productions and videos, as well as the documentary film “Stone Reader”.
He is pleased to release of his first solo guitar CD, “Returning and Returned. Recorded by Erich Avinger in Houston, TX. and mixed and mastered by Cass Anawaty at Sunbreak Studios in Portland, OR., this new recording is a mix of old and new tunes performed the way Michael composed them, on simple solo acoustic guitar. Larry Tyrrell, master Shakuhachi player and the graphic designer for the CD offers this observation:
“Returning and Returned” captures the quintessential Mandrell; reflecting, bopping, grooving, dreaming and spinning a yarn. He creates these yarns with a musical sleight of hand that points the listener away from his redoubtable fingerstyle technique. Therein lies the pleasure of it–music played with such skill and finesse that the technical prowess is just one element in the multicultural sonic tapestry.”
The Back Story:
The headwaters of Michael’s inspiration flow from his early exposure to the popular acoustic artists of the late 70s and early 80’s and then on to his college days where he put musical roots down in the piney woods of Nacogdoches, Texas. He was drawn into the Celtic mythos of open tunings and world music espoused by such players as his good friends Chris Grooms and Charlie Jones, both composers and guitarists. He spent his time in Irish sessions and Celtic string bands there while soaking up the influence of the bourgeoning Celtic folk music renaissance. After moving back to his hometown of Houston he met up with jazz guitarist Erich Avinger and luthier Steven Smith and found new models to emulate in the form of jazz influences and East Indian modalities.
In journeys that have since taken him to Taos, New Mexico and to his current home in Portland, Oregon Michael has been an artist of life whose music expresses the fiber of his being. His musical worldview expresses the wide-ranging aspirations of his spirit. From his Celtic core to his World Beat, raga and jazz-inflected compositions, his music enlivens the listener with the spirit of a master raconteur telling the grand archetypal story–“I lived that.”
Michael performs for a wide range of audiences throughout the country on the acoustic circuit, from club dates to house concerts and new thought churches. He plays a mix of handmade steel string guitars from luthiers Tom Cornett, Stephen Smith and Tony Sutherland.
As Public Radio International’s “Echoes” host John Diliberto describes it:
“Michael Mandrell is the acoustic guitar player infusing his original melodies with Indian scales and a Celtic lilt……..”
The Deepening Edge with the group Taos 1995 Blix Street Records www.blixstreet.com
The Great Spiral Dance produced by Michael Mandrell 2000 Ageless Music
Anjali produced with Benjy Wertheimer 2003 Wolf Cub Records
Notes from Celtistan produced with Benjy Wertheimer 2007 Wolf Cub Records
Sanctuary produced with Jenny Bird 2007 Earthlight Records
Cascadia produced with David Michael 2008 Purnima Productions
Links to friends mentioned in this article:
Erich Avinger firstname.lastname@example.org Invisible Studios Houston, TX.
Cass Anawaty Sunbreak Studios www.sunbreakmusic.com
Larry Tyrrell www.moonbridge.com .
Chris Grooms www.docgrooms.com
Jenny Bird www.jennybird.com
Benjy Wertheimer www.benjymusic.com
David Michael www.purnimaproductions.com
The Documentary Film Stone Reader www.stonereader.net/