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Eleni Mandell
AFTERNOON
(Zedtone)

In "American Boy," the lead track here, singer-songerwriter Eleni Mandell plays the role of a David Lynchian chanteuse, crooning about "blue light drives" in a sexy, throaty alto while subtle surf-guitar lines haunt the rockabilly slow-jam backdrop. Mandell is a skillful songwriter, and Afternoon bears imprints of her previous forays into the noirish world of Tom Waits as well as the outlaw country of Merle Haggard and even some recent attempts at jazzier composition. But this release is focused less on Mandell herself than on her interplay with her seasoned backing band, whoíre as comfortable settling into a loungy rockabilly groove as they are biting off big chunks of rock. And her mature voice makes the ballads stand out, especially the aptly titled "Canít You See Iím Soulful."

(Eleni Mandell performs next Monday, July 12, at ZuZu, 474 Massachusetts Avenue in Central Square; call 617-864-3278.)

BY ELISABETH DONNELLY


Issue Date: July 2 - 8, 2004
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