Any band that bills itself as a husband-wife/accordion-guitar rock duo is worth investigating. Even more so when the tandem enlists musical friends such as The Sterns and Bentmen. Great reviews for the outfit's third and latest album, "Funny Day," don't hurt either. Led by the core of singer-accordionist-keyboardist Ruby Bird and singer-guitarist Billy Carl Mancini, Bird Mancini mix up a cosmopolitan fusion of blues-tinged rock, Latin-flavored bossa nova, country-folk balladry, and woolly psychedelia. What it adds up to is pop music in the most adventurous inclusive sense of the term.
BIRD MANCINI: Press
By Bill Copeland on March 27, 2013
Bird Mancini has found a new focus on bossa nova and other music from Brazil. The pair have always had an interest, but this time around they’ve gathered everything they’ve worked in on that genre and dedicated an album to it. Hence, Bird Mancini Lounge, a collection of jazzy, breezy songs with a distinctly South American flavor. None of these songs ever come on strong, yet each has a hypnotic charm that soon works its magic, beckoning the listener to follow along with each note. It’s easy to picture people in coffee shops turning their heads toward the speakers as this plays and asking the owner or manager where they can get a copy.
Ruby Bird composed the album’s opening number “If You Wanna Get to Know Me.” A Brazilian laced accordion melody sweeps through with a charm as Latin as the ever present percussion pieces swishing in the backdrop. Spanish guitar notes waltz around the accordion and percussion with a self-contained machismo. Over all that, Mrs. Bird unfurls her gentle vocal sustains and sweet exhortations.
The rest of the album is written by Ruby Bird’s husband Billy Carl Mancini. His songwriter styles differs slightly from Mrs. Bird, but he too is wading through Spanish American waters. “The Listener” remains fairly typically Mancini territory, his vocal assertions gliding over a lot of melodic textures. Yet, he has injected Bird’s flavorful accordion, Cliff Tetle’s tenor saxophone and Eric Michael Kelley’s conga and other exotic percussion instruments to conjure the feel, if not the exact sound, of Brazil. This one is a swirl of musical ear candy.
“Bridge 51” features both members of Bird Mancini in a lovely vocal harmony. Yet, this is Ruby Bird’s lead vocal song, and she finely applies her lovely lilt to this peaceful, gently swaying number. Her accordion is still working its magic after three tracks, and it sounds great.
Mancini get more assertive at the microphone on “You Don’t Know What I’m Saying,” singing in a an even handed flow that might remind some of Steely Dan. The piano line Ruby Bird taps out underneath his voice is delightfully peppy, infusing the number with a playful bounce that makes it as alluring as Mancini’s handsome vocal. Bob McCloskey’s cuica tugs the ear with a see-sawing, gritty, exotic rhythmic swing that compels one to listen closely and to try to imagine what that instrument is.
“What Gets Me This Way?” finds Mancini picking the sweetest, most roots electric guitar lines on the album. Listeners will want to listen to him play in this style all day. Ruby Bird presses out a constant, pleasant accordion hum. This one gets by on share talent and charismatic instrumentation.
“Midway Dream Café” floats by like a warm gentle summer breeze. The Spanish guitar notes play out brittle and enticing as Bird and Mancini caress their vocal notes with subtle emotive injections, especially in their sweet coos and sustains. Another plus: Mauro Tortolero slaps out an interesting allure in his conga patterns and saxophonist Bob McCloskey plays a stirring melodic horn line.
Mancini’s Spanish guitar influences impact his picking style on “Jet Setting In Morocco.” He has a way of letting one note drift into the one he’s about to pick. It’s pure beauty. The Latin flavor from bass player Sven Larson and drummer David Roy Kulik couldn’t be better in its mildly pushy accents on the beat. Bird charmingly croons her way through this one with easeful grace, her naturally tender vocal timbre fits the mood here like a glove. And, again, it’s Bird’s subtle application of her accordion sustains that take it to an even higher level, making it exotic and fetching.
“Pond Life” has a lot going on during its mellow down tempo glide. Bird and Mancini trade lead vocal lines to give the piece a lilting female-male conversational tone. His well picked south of the border acoustic guitar notes dart around the beat tenderly, and her harmonica blows forlorn melody lines that make you feel yourself moving through time to the scene they set. Curt Naihersey does something special with his frame drum and ebow, injecting exotic tones and unusual punctuations with his odd meters.
Another instrumental “Patagonia” is a multi-statement of musical bliss. Nimble, high-pitched acoustic guitar notes ring out with feeling within their sophisticated pattern. Intervals of exotic notes swirl out of the accordion. The playing techniques get more intense as the emotion of the piece becomes more passionate. One is forced to picture Mancini picking away and fingering his fret board as he pays out more sophisticated intervals of sharp, nappy notes.
A gently swaying electric guitar chord progression sweeps the listener into “Somedays,” a mellow waltz studded with Larson’s knobby bass knolls and Eric Michael Kelly’s myriad of percussion instruments. The two vocalists skate over the musical surface like they’re powered by a summer breeze, moving slowly, but surely, with purpose, a leisurely pace that these players fill in well.
Ruby bird is a vocal gem on “Northridge,” a song laced with nuanced rhythmic underpinnings and all sorts of gently spiraling melodies. Bird’s vocal application perfectly matched the dreamy like musical passage underneath her. It’s just a sweet song that carries one away with its swirl of colors and tones.
The album closes out with the more uptempo, rocking beat of “Running To You(Coda).” Mancini funks things up a bit with his riffy electric chords as Bird unleashes a serious smoky organ line. This is musical exploration worthy of the album’s whole as well as a bracing finale.
Bird Mancini have much to be proud of here. Not only did they stretch their sound in an entirely different direction, they did so with class and distinction for an entire album. This Latin American exploration will mark an important chapter in their musical development. Bravo!
BIRD MANCINI -LIVE REVIEW
In A Pig’s Eye, Salem MA
The Pig is full of Bird Mancini fans—and I’m starting to get to know them all, since I’m a fan myself. Ruby Bird (vocals/accordion/harmonica/ melodica/ various percussion) and Billy Carl Mancini (vocals/guitar/sound engineer) make up this duet that has the feel of a light yet full, eclectic ’60s pop band. Both are excellent vocalists with precision timing. Tonight they’re playing a mix of songs from their new CD, Bird Mancini Lounge, the relatively new CD Tuning In/Tuning Out, old CDFunny Day, and fan-favorite covers “Crimson & Clover,” “Sunny Afternoon,” “Nature’s Way,” and “You Can’t Do That.” I realize how loved this band is. Half their attending fans are made up of media people—radio DJs, fanzine publishers, writers, and photographers. That pretty much insures that the word will get out about this talented musical pair. Ruby is being extra expressive tonight, kinda dancin’ in her seat, dressed in a red top, black pants, and American flag socks sticking up from her boots! Billy’s the real time machine master, in both rhythm and choice of old cover tunes. He sports a tie-dyed T-shirt and his signature black derby. But the biggest little secret about Billy is his use of a DBX 120A sub harmonic synthesizer effect on his guitar. No, it’s not a typical synth—it boosts the bass on the bottom strings of his guitar, subtly adding what sounds like a bass player to the mix. Between that and Ruby’s boot-bells to create the snare effect, you essentially have a full band. Bravo Bird Mancini! (T Max)
February 2013 Issue Live Review
Cat in the Cradle, Byfield MA
Finz, Salem MA
As a publisher/editor of the Noise, I actually avoid seeing too much of the same act. One reason is so I see as many different acts as possible, but the other is that I usually don’t enjoy hearing the same songs or watching the same performance too often. This is just not the case with Bird Mancini, the husband (Billy Carl Mancini) and wife (Ruby Bird) powerhouse duet (they do play with a full band sometimes, too). I could see them twice a week and be happy. They are two well-balanced talented artists who totally entertain me. At the Cat in the Cradle show, they play two 45-minute sets on a large four-foot-tall stage and only add one cover to each set. It shows off their sophisticated pop- rock style songwriting skills. They are well-lit with spotlights and everyone in the audience has a perfect view of them. At Fins they fill three hours with music, while set up on the floor in a corner with a column partially blocking the view for some. Although they play many more covers, their originals really stand out. I love “Green Walls,” a song with a beautiful build to an almost dissonant crescendo. They don’t play the song very often, so I’m happy to hear it. A lot of their fans from all over New England show up at Finz and it’s good to see them too.
Ruby Bird is a multi-instrumentalist with accordion and percussion (bells on her feet) her main tools, but she’ll pick up a melodica, harmonica, or glockenspiel to add the right flavor to any song. Her biggest asset is her phenomenal vocal ability. She’ll take it soft and sweet with one song and be belting the next one out like Tina Turner invaded her spirit. Billy Carl Mancini could be Eric Clapton’s younger brother—he’s an excellent guitarist, rhythmically perfect, and he posseses a set of vocal cords that surprise you when you don’t expect it. Their skill at songwriting sets the stage for their musical talents, proving the one plus one equals more than two. And I’ll keep coming back for more as long as they keep performing. (T Max)
CD REVIEWS Dec. 2010
Silver Circle Reviews
Tuning In/Tuning Out 12-song CD
Ruby Bird and Billy Carl Mancini’s latest release is also their coolest one to date. Twelve lush Beatles-influenced original tunes tinged with a bit of blues and a bit of flower power; and always Ruby’s soulful vocals and Billy’s first-rate musicianship. Ruby also contributes harmonica, accordion, melodica, and glockenspiel. Billy brings the guitars, keys, bass, and percussion. The tunes have very personal lyrics and after listening to the project as a whole, one gets the romantic idea that the metaphorical words in the many love songs were written for each other: and there is a comfort in the familiarity of the idea as well. Steve Gilligan and Sal Baglio from the Stompers, blues siren Madeleine Hall, and Low Budget’s Tim Casey also appear on the melodies. Songs like “Truth,” “Because It’s December,” and “Didn’t Last Long Did It?” are radio friendly, while “(I Want My Own) Brian Epstein” and “Tuning In/Tuning Out” best illustrate their likable style. (A.J. Wachtel)
TUNING IN/TUNING OUT
12 SONG CD
TUNING IN/TUNING OUT
(I Want My Own) BRIAN EPSTEIN
DIDN'T LAST LONG DID IT?
BECAUSE IT'S DECEMBER
WRITTEN IN THE STARS
TUNING IN/TUNING OUT (Radio Edit)
In case you were wondering where the name Bird Mancini comes from, founding members Bill & Ruby Mason went back in their ancestry and tool their respective grandfathers' let names, Bird and Mancini and combined them to create Bird Mancini. A smart idea, especially if you consider you'll probably never hear of another band with that same name.
Billy & Ruby have been playing the Boston music scene longer than I care to admit ('cause I've been around just as long too). On their latest album, Tuning In/Tuning Out, the couple delivers the best work of their career. Whether penning pop perfection as with the album's title track, "Tuning In/Tuning Out;" grindin'out a clever psychedelic groove on "(I Want My Own) Brian Epstein," be-boppin' a honky tonk vibe with "Didn't Last Long Did It?," or busting out with six strings blazing on "Green Jam," Bird Mancini have undoubtedly hit their stride. Good stuff!
Bird Mancini-PICK OF THE WEEK
Tuning In/Tuning Out
I can honestly tell you without a trace of shame that I had to look up who Brian Epstein was. His name, being the subject matter of the new Bird Mancini song “(I Want My Own) Brian Epstein”, was vaguely familiar but something inside wasn’t clicking. So, while listening to the brilliant song off Bird Mancini’s new album Tuning In/ Tuning Out, I was reminded, through the help of a simple internet search, that the man in question was the manager of some British band called The Beatles. I’m not familiar with these “Beatle” fellows but Mr. Epstein also managed the sensational Gerry & the Pacemakers. If Bird Mancini had their own Brian Epstein perhaps they could be as big as Gerry & the Pacemakers as well; maybe even bigger! Mr. Epstein would alert the public to this amazingly talented and creative force from Boston.
Bird Mancini is comprised of the husband and wife team of Ruby Bird and Billy Carl Mancini. Ruby handles some vocals and the keyboards while Billy takes care of the guitar work and the other vocals. Most of the time when husbands and wives team up the results are the police being called or divorce but here the outcome is a beautiful album of very diverse rock music that has more layers than baklava. “Because it’s December” has a great steady pace that draws you in like a warm fire on a winter’s night. What gets me involved is the ease of which the melody flows not only here but on all of their songs. They clearly listened to the Beatles enough to learn about how to write a brilliant melody without listening too much as to accidently steal some. These songs are all 100% original without a trace of too much influence from any one source. “Green Walls” is a wonderful acoustic song featuring Billy on vocals. The melody is easy and relaxing even at the end with his electric guitar comes in to close the song out. “Didn’t Last Long Did It” feels like I have transported into the roaring 1920’s. The song, clocking in at a quick 1:42, is highlighted by a skillfully played clarinet handled by Cliff Tetle. Ruby’s voice fits this song like a glove and if I have one wish it’s for more of this. This is easily a glorious highlight on a great album. Ruby’s unique voice has a wonderful quiver in it that makes it slightly flawed in a beautiful way. “Truth” though finds Ruby flexing her vocals pipes with a great upbeat song accompanied by a heavenly choir. Her voice is easily capable of leading the choir and the hints of organ and accordion in the background give the song a great down home feel. “Green Jam” though is an instrumental featuring the guitar work of Billy. Man alive can he put together a great jam! His sound is clean and just righteous! It’s an absolute classic of an instrumental even though it’s an annoying 1:31 long. I say annoying because it’s like getting a one spoonful of the greatest chocolate mousse ever made and then watching the waiter take the bowl away.
This is a solid release that Bird Mancini should be proud to have in their catalog as it raises the bar for “local” bands everywhere. On Tuning In/ Tuning Out they take a step closer to their destiny of well deserved national recognition. The album is well done and way above expectations. If they keep releasing albums like this they might end up as big as that great band Brian Epstein managed who went by the simple name of…Gerry & the Pacemakers.
Key Tracks: Didn’t Last Long Did It, Because it’s December, Written in The Stars
Doug Morrissey- MuzikReviews.com Staff
November 11, 2010
BILL COPELAND MUSIC NEWS
Bird Mancini provide many nice atmospheres on Tuning In/Tuning Out
Another release from Bird Mancini, the husband and wife team of Billy Carl Mancini and Ruby Bird, finds the duo again in top form and again stretching their own boundaries. Tuning In/Tuning Out maintains the usual qualities of their CDs. This time around, though, they show more of their Beatles influence, get a little bit edgier, and their lyrics get a little bit quirkier.
There’s a tune here called “(I Want My Own) Brian Epstein” and yes, the song is about The Beatles’ manager who committed suicide in the mid-1960s. Written by Mancini, the song is about an artist crying out for a manager to take care of his business interests as well as Epstein took care of The Beatles. It is a fun song in which Bird Mancini get away with wearing their Beatles’ influence on their sleeve. They have a Ringo Starr style drumbeat from Larry Harvey, and, Bird’s accordion sustains reminds of the Fab Four’s experimental 60s material. Mancini even stretches his timbre to sound Lennonesque. The couple are actually clever enough to pull this off, sounding more like homage than copycats.
Bird contributes the beautiful “Didn’t Last Long, Did It” and it is masterpiece pastiche of 1920s jazz elements. It makes you picture the jazz era and The Great Gatsby years. Clarinet and bass clarinet, alto and tenor sax, all from one player, Cliff Tetle brings the melody lines home with his tasteful, elegant playing. Bird also recruited for this one song upright bass player Ken Steiner, ukulele player Glenn Williams, and they all work wonders around Bird’s accordion progressions. This song makes one long for a simpler decade, when musicians had time to work with multitudes of beautiful melody lines over jaunty rhythms.
Opening title track “Tuning In/Tuning Out” explodes with sound at the beginning. Bird sings in her girlish timbre, sustaining vocal notes sweetly, appealingly, and Mancini’s guitar and harmonica rock right out. There’s a lot of snap, crackle, and pop going on, and the couple load this one up with plenty of sounds and they’re all good. Mancini’s guitar phrases are heavy duty, coming out of nowhere and suddenly building up strong. Each song on the whole Tuning In/Tuning Out CD has its own unique architecture. Bird Mancini create more atmospheres and soundscapes with the use of the instruments they’ve always used. They just stretch those uses here.
“Green Walls” features solid acoustic guitar and Mancini’s voice sounding a bit Lennonesque again in his pop music drawl. He does a fine job layering this one. It is also interesting how he uses different instruments and dynamics to build a song up. Acoustic guitar and accordion usher this one in gently and firmly, but the tune eventually gets taken over by electric guitar and edgy accordion. “Northridge” truly has ethereal beauty in Bird’s voice, which is a little bit silkier here and Mancini’s background coos are dreamy and washy. His voicing does much to augment, in contrast, what Bird can do vocally. Between the contrast of vocals, that soundscape atmosphere comes into play again. Mancini creates many nice atmospheres with his electric picking style, single notes, brittle, resonate with tone. He also bends and sustains notes in a way that creates something greater than the individual notes. Sven Larson’s electric upright provides this song’s smooth, eloquent flow of low end, which blends in with while also supporting the atmosphere.
Bird and Mancini do some vocal magic on “Because It’s December.” Mancini’s voice rides it range on this one in a sensitive tone on some verses moments before getting edgier on his hooky chorus. Drama comes from his shifting dynamics and timbres and he just grabs your ear when he belts “because it’s December. The couple’s tune “Truth” rocks things up a bit. The guitar and organ have a distinctive 60s R&B influence yet the beat is pure rock and roll fun and the chorus has that glory feel of a gospel choir.
Bird Mancini offer a lot to the ear. On “Bridge 51” Bird’s svelte voice paves the way for a gentle push of understated accordion. Mancini’s easy going drawl fills out the love song lyrics of “Written In The Stars” and he powers a Peter Green influenced instrumental called “Green Jam” with his guitar darting around John Bridge’s bass and Larry Harvey’s drums. The CD closes out with “Raindrops” in which Mancini plays lovely bass notes and his manipulation of a glockenspiel puts this CD a cut above what most local bands are doing these days.
LIVE REVIEWS DECEMBER 2010 BIRD MANCINI
In A Pig’s Eye, Salem, NH 11/13/10
When I arrive at the Pig’s Eye, Billy and Ruby of Bird Mancini are just starting to load in. The “stage” area is occupied by patrons still eating their dinner—but tonight the sound of chewing will not substitute for entertainment. Bird Mancini sets up and launches into the quirky “I Want My Own Brian Epstein” from their new CD, Tuning In/Tuning Out. They’re playing two and a half hours tonight so even though they have four full-length CDs of their own material, they like to dip into the world of covers. They include songs by the Beatles, the Who, Three Dog Night, Led Zeppelin, Neil Young, George Harrison, and Tommy James. “Crimson & Clover” gets the entire bar singing along. One youthful good-looking couple playfully dances in the open space in front of the band. They look like a young Jimmy Fallon and Amy Poehler as they smile away and take over the visual part of the show.
I’ve been listening to Tuning In/Tuning Out all this week and it’s fun to see how the duet translates the full production of the recorded songs. “Green Walls” and “Because It’s December” hold up fine, while I personally have to fill in the choir on “Truth” and can almost hear the clarinet solo in “Didn’t Last Long.” Ruby is a wonderful singer who frequently belts it out while playing accordion and percussion, but it’s Billy who holds the fort down with his mastery of the guitar and his own set of pipes. (T Max)
THE NOISE MAGAZINE
ROCK AROUND BOSTON
CD PICK OF THE MONTH (July/Aug) 2007
Funny Day - 13-song CD
What Funny Day isn't: punk, garage, or metal of any kind.
What Funny Day is:
'60s pop, blues, and rock with a whole lot of other things thrown in there did I hear some loungy bossa nova? This CD is a veritable goulash of musical ingredients mixed in just the right proportions two cups of outstanding vocals, six or seven cups of amazing musicianship, a few tablespoons of electric guitar, bass, and drums, a dash of accordion, and a pinch of glockenspiel, piano, tambourine that the ratio of ingredients creates a brand new dish. Every song is superb but here's what stands out in my mind at the moment: "Holly" lush layered vocals reminiscent of '60s vocal groups (a recurring sound throughout the CD). So Cool Lucinda Williams with less twang and even more grit."Red Geraniums" Annie Lennox meets Tom Waits. I hope Bird Mancini keeps the recipe for this concoction;
I want many more servings of this stuff.
WEST ROXBURY TRANSCRIPT
Roslindale band lives out a rock ‘n’ roll dream
By Ed Symkus
Posted Jul 09, 2008 @ 01:34 PM
Photo by Wil Woodrowe/Woodrowe Arts
When the Roslindale-based rock-pop-blues-oriented Bird Mancini performs as a whole band, singer-accordionist Ruby Bird and singer-guitarist Billy Carl Mancini are accompanied by John Bridge on bass and Larry Harvey on drums. But there are plenty of times when Ruby and Billy Carl go out on their own, doing the duo thing. That’s usually the case when they’re giving interviews.
So when the whole band recently returned from performing a couple of gigs in Liverpool — one-time stomping grounds of a certain group of mop tops who changed the world of music — it was Ruby and Billy Carl telling the story of what happened over there, and how the Beatles affected them and their music. For the record, it’s always an amusing challenge to speak with them, as they like to finish each other’s sentences.
Have both of you always been Beatles nuts?
Ruby: I grew up on a farm in Pumpkin Center, Missouri. We only got two TV channels, and one of them had “Ed Sullivan.” I saw the three shows the Beatles were on when I was a kid. The next day in school, everyone was talking about the Beatles.
Billy Carl: My mom wanted me to see those shows. I was around 7, and I don’t think I knew what was going on, but my mom knew something was up.
Ruby: I was listening to the radio by then, to whatever was popular. But the Beatles changed the direction of what I wanted to do with my life. I was taking piano lessons, and my teacher knew that I had some talent and was trying to convince me to make music a career, even that young. When I saw the Beatles I thought, “This is good. This is OK.” I wanted to create a little piece of that euphoria for myself.
Billy Carl: I wasn’t playing any instruments yet. But John Lennon had the same experience with Elvis. He said, “That’s a good job.” That’s how he saw it, and I think that might be how I saw it. Right after that show, I was trying to get records and Beatles cards. I begged my mom for a Beatles wig, but she wouldn’t get me one. I started playing drums about sixth grade.
When did you get serious about music?
Ruby: When I was in high school.
Billy Carl: Probably around eight or ninth grade; I was already starting to write songs.
Did you play any Beatles covers back then?
Ruby and Billy Carl: No.
Ruby: But we do play some of their songs now. “I’ve Got a Feeling” …
Billy Carl: … “Don’t Let Me Down” …
Ruby: … “With a Little Help from My Friends” …
Billy Carl: … “Money,” and some weird, obscure things. What’s that George Harrison?
Ruby: “Apple Scruffs.”
Have the Beatles influenced your writing?
Ruby: We’d never intentionally borrow from them, but you can’t help but be influenced. We’ve been influenced by a lot of people. The Allman Brothers …
Billy Carl: … Steppenwolf …
Ruby: … Creedence, the Kinks, Cream.
How did you two meet?
Ruby: At a club in Tucson, Arizona, in 1978. We were free spirits, adventurous people. We were both in Tucson for similar reasons — we wanted to get the heck out of where we were. I was in the Midwest, and he was Keane, New Hampshire. We found ourselves in Tucson because his friends lured him there, and my friends lured me there, and we were both playing as separate entities. He was in a duo, and I was playing piano by myself. There was a contest at a club called The Living Room. The first prize was a hundred bucks and a free meal. Bill and his duo won. I was very impressed with the two of them, musically. They were great, so I introduced myself.
Billy Carl: I was impressed with her, she was not all that impressed with me, so she says.
When did you start playing together?
Ruby: I had just arrived in Tucson, but he had already established a network of friends there. He introduced me to his crowd, and I felt really comfortable with them. We started working together and writing songs together just for the fun of it.
Did you know you were both into the Beatles right away?
Ruby: Once we started digging each other, it wasn’t long.
Billy Carl: As soon as she came over to where I was living, I’m sure she knew. I’ve always had a Beatles shrine wherever I lived. I had been collecting stuff since I was 8 years old.
Ruby: I thought I was a Beatles fan, until I met him. He took it to a whole new level. I saw his collection and at that time went, Wow!” And it’s just been building since then.
How did these gigs in Liverpool happen?
Billy Carl: That goes back to meeting Sal Baglio, from the Stompers.
Ruby: That was about two years ago. We went to see Sal play at the Sit’ n’ Bull Pub. We had a mutual friend there who introduced us, and Sal sat down and started talking with us.
Billy Carl: Sal is also a major Beatles fan. We traded CDs, so he knew where we were coming from [musically], and he suggested we might want to play with International Pop Overthrow festival, which travels around the world, and was coming to Boston in 2007. And later on, he introduced us to David Bash, who is the person behind the International Pop Overthrow festival. He chooses the bands that will play, and he liked our CD, so he put us in the Boston show, then the New York City one. I knew he was bringing it to Liverpool, so I asked if we could go. And he said, yeah.
So you went with the whole band?
Billy Carl: Yeah. Our band members said, “You’re going to Liverpool? To play at the Cavern?”
Ruby: “You’re not going without us! We’re going with you!” And several months later, we got the invitation.
What actually went on in Liverpool?
Ruby: It was a six-day festival.
Billy Carl: There were bands from all over the world. Of course, it wasn’t the real Cavern Club, because that doesn’t exist anymore. But there was the Cavern Club, which has two stages. And right after our set, we went across the street to a place called the Cavern Pub, a smaller place that was really packed …
Ruby: … and we played another set.
Had you been to Liverpool before?
Billy Carl: Yeah, for one day. We were in England doing a tourist thing, so we had to go to Liverpool.
Ruby: That was in 1991. We were in London, and we took a side trip to Liverpool, did the Beatles tour.
Billy Carl: We saw places, we drove by them in the rain. They said, “That’s Penny Lane, there’s John Lennon’s house.” This time we went in to John Lennon’s house.
Ruby: We went in to Paul McCartney’s house. And we went to the Casbah Club, the place Pete Best’s mother created. That’s the real first gig the Beatles had. The Best family still owns the house, and they’ve changed nothing. It was so exciting!
Did you play any Beatles covers in Liverpool?
Billy Carl: No, that would have been too much.
Ruby: We stuck to songs from our “Funny Day” album, with one exception, “Magic Flirtation,” from our debut album. We knew the Liverpudlians would like it.
So was this whole thing a dream come true thing?
Ruby: It isn’t something you dream about because it never even enters your thought process.
Ed Symkus can be reached at email@example.com.
THE PATRIOT LEDGER
Photo by Mr. Curt
Bird Mancini’s musical marriage
By CHAD BERNDTSON
Posted Jun 26, 2008 @ 06:08 AM
They finish each other’s sentences and inspire each other’s muses, so luckily for Boston’s Billy Carl Mancini and Ruby Bird, their marriage goes hand-in-hand with their long-time accordion/guitar musical partnership, Bird Mancini. It’s at the least an outlet that melds their wide-ranging musical gifts into something utterly engaging and impossible to pigeonhole, regardless of whether they’re accompanied by additional bandmates.
The duo, which has been a fixture in Boston-area blues and roots clubs for much of the past decade, brings its eclectic sound back to Norwood’s Perks Coffeehouse on Friday. It’s not a ``regular'' Bird Mancini gig – it’s an Urban Caravan gig, and more on that in a moment – but we were happy to find the duo still riding high on its excellent 2007 album ``Funny Day,'' and expanding its tours to national and international locales.
In addition to the Perks gig, look for them at Sally O’Brien’s in Somerville on July 10, and at Ward’s Berry Farm in Sharon on Oct. 11.
Q: You recently played in the U.K. at the Liverpool installment of the International Pop Overthrow. What was that like?
RUBY BIRD: We didn’t get our official invitation until late February so we weren’t quite sure it was going to happen. And the most important thing was to get our drummer a passport! We had to expedite it and his ID was all sketchy.
BILLY CARL MANCINI: He finally got it, so we all went over there as a band and it was a great crowd, just bands and audiences from all over the world. And we played on a Monday, which was for us Memorial Day but for them a bank holiday, which to them was a big reason to get drunk. The whole of Mathew Street – where places like (Beatles birthplace) the Cavern Pub are – it was all day long and a great experience. On a Monday.
Q:How is an Urban Caravan show different from a quote-unquote normal Bird Mancini gig?
BCM: Well, Bird Mancini is either just the two of us or us with a full band. Urban Caravan is a group of musicians; traveling troubadours, really. It all started when (the Stompers’) Sal Baglio and I were conversing over e-mail about the Traveling Wilburys and that we should get something like that together. So that’s how it works: several people will play two or three of their own songs and then start to sit in, play some cover material as well, get everyone onstage. It’s a lot of people to put in small venues, but we do enjoy each other’s company. At Perks we’ll have us, Sal, Mr. Curt Ensemble, Ramona Silver and St. Maxwell.
Q: I imagine you find a lot of folks who want to join the Caravan and participate.
RB: Yeah, you can be in it if you want.
BCM: We’re at a limit now because you can’t get 20 musicians into certain venues. You kind of need to have a cutoff.
RB: Yes, we have expanded quite a bit already, and it’s all been good. It hasn’t gotten so big yet that anyone’s ever been in the way.
BCM: Right. We’re trying to keep it very organic – it’s supposed to look like it’s fun and that we’re having fun doing it. And we are.
Q: ``Funny Day'' has been out for a while and its songs have had time to marinate as you’ve been playing them live. Do you have any new impressions of the material now?
RB: Not really. We’re still promoting it as though the majority of people in the country haven’t heard it, and we’re taking it out to the West Coast with a Northwest tour planned in July. And we’re writing other stuff in the meantime but we’re not at the point where we can do another album – we don’t yet have the resources. But (``Funny Day``) hasn’t been overplayed and is still new enough that we can take it to new audiences and different types of venues.
Q: It would seem there are lots of areas of the country where your sound might be embraced – lots of possibilities for a ``destination tour,'' in other words. Why the Northwest?
BCM: Ruby has a friend who’s promoting shows all over the West Coast, so that’s how it started. What we like is that out there there are no preconceptions about Bird Mancini – when people see us we’re 100 percent new. We’ve been here for a long time in Boston so when people come to see us they know what they’re going to get. If we go out there, we can play the same set in 10 different venues.
Q: You mentioned new material – what does it sound like in relation to previous songs you’ve written?
RB: The new material is still sort of in development – maybe a little rootsier than ``Funny Day.'' It’s hard for me to think in terms of how songs are different from each other because they’re all inspired by whatever’s going on. As you probably know we’re pretty eclectic and absorb a lot of things from psychedelic rock to jazz, blues, accordion rock ... and I don’t think Billy or I write songs to ``fit'' anything. We write whatever inspires us. Sometimes when we put albums together we can take something that was written 10 to 15 years ago and find it would really work.
BCM: If you think about anything too much, you’re done for. I have a cousin who’s a 20-year-old guitar player, and my advice to him is always ``stop thinking so much about what you’re doing.'' I think that’s the way music should be.
CD BABY LISTENER REVIEW:
What an uplifting CD...I marvel at how good it makes me feel.
The jangling guitars, psychedelic fills (I smile broadly during the break in Holly--that Disraeli Gears, We're Going Home tonality), the solid rhythm section & percussional touches, that freakin great accordion, and those vocals, those glorious heavenly harmonies--what an uplifting CD. I've listened to it twice and marvel how good it makes me feel (quite the antidote to what I'm up to). Sometimes I feel like I'm walking through some kind of pop history on a Funny, Sunny Day, flipping pages between the Lovin' Spoonful, Kinks, XTCs Oranges & Lemons, Dan Hicks & His Hot Licks, Nuggets!!! (Through Your Eyes), Beatles & Brian Wilson (No Saints Can Say--Wow!), yet it's all fresh and eminently tuneful--my kind of songwriting. This is really great work. I mean it. The keyboard touches are really effective, especially in Somedays--is that a harpsichord, clavinet (it's not credited, whatever it is)? This, in parts, is a long-awaited Beach Boys record (you must know I'm obsessed with the BBs). Then it's a Dukes of the Stratosphear meets Open Hand (Heart of the City intro segueing into a Country Joe & the Fish / Flying Burrito Brothers amalgam, yet, jesusgod, that great accordion pushes it beyond its influences). Then, here comes Not This Time--if that's not a hit freakin record then.... Anyway, ballsy middle sections, nice guitar work, nice Lennon-solo-years Steel & Glass, but, omygod, then the suite goes on into scat and it's all boiling over so nicely. I gotta tell you--very ambitious. I'm a big fan of progressive pop suiteness, song cycles and narrative ambitions. Finally, Red Geraniums is stunning in performance and poetry. What a testimonial, what a way to end a record. I'm pretty blown away by how rich this is as a musical experience and as an homage to the great pop music that has shaped your own distinct musical characters. You wear your influences lovingly and transcend them with your own take on what constitutes architecture & orchestration, interesting melodic changes, and performance, which is spirited and honest throughout. Congratulations. You should be very proud and happy about this Funny Day--your own almanac to the everyday and wonder of things small and interesting.
Radio Interview with Les Lewellyn from PreyLizardRadio.com
"Funny Day sounds like nobody else...it's so original. I've got stacks of CDs and you don't sound like any of 'em. This CD deserves international airplay. This is one of those albums that stands up to time...an album that 10 years from now I'm gonna dig it and everyone who has it is gonna dig it. It's just one of those albums. It's one of those albums that needs to be heard by everybody. You guys are doing music that's not for today, it's for eternity. Your CD is perfect. If there's a perfect CD, it's Funny Day--I mean it. It has a beginning and an end, and in the realm of concept albums, it's all there. I wish you all the best."
THE BOSTON BLUES SOCIETY
Bird Mancini - Funny Day
Second Story Records
A singer-songwriter duo with a classic rock and blues influence, Bird Mancini incorporates many instruments and stylistic flavorings. Offering a salad bar of sound to the ear with every individual savory piece, Ruby Bird and Billy Carl Mancini have a breezy fresh approach on their new CD, Funny Day.
Opening with "Holly," Mancinis reflection on a lonely girl from his school days, the duo make the most of their harmonies and breezy lead vocal interplay. Each gives strength to the song, instead of one singer merely backing the other. Its breezy vocal work makes it a pleasant listen. Meanwhile, a bristling lead guitar line gives it an edge, and this comes alive with such contrast.
"A Funny Day To Be Alive" offers more of the duos trade offs. Yet, they and their backing musicians show their new maturity here. This reflection on the meaning of life, inspired by their experience with a terminally ill man in hospice care, floats by with confidence and compassion, and this can be heard in their warm vocal inflections.
"Better Man" has a chorus that makes me think this track will soon find its way to radio. Catchy without contrivance, it latches onto to the ear and refuses to let go. The song is also infused with confident twists and turns.
"The Other Side" gets the full attention of Birds lead vocal for half the song. Her voice pulls this mellow tune along a casual path, until she gets to stretch out a little bit in the chorus. She really came into her own as a vocalist on the first Bird Mancini album. Now she's a force to be reckoned with.
Bird gets even more aggressive on the up-tempo "Through Your Eyes," where she comes tastefully just short of belting - showing control of her tone.
Bird Mancini have a sound that is easy to follow. But they are by no mean simplistic. There are lots of subtle things going on underneath the surface. I like what Bird does here with her synthesized vibes, creating melodic notes that dart in and out.
"Rest Of My Life" offers more of the vocal interplay and accordion work that preceded it. Mancinis guitar eventually takes the reins, and makes the sound ride out with distinction.
Reminding me of John Lennon and The Beatles, "So Cool" is clearly a sarcastic attack on people who live the music lifestyle for the wrong reasons. Bills guitar solo here reminds me of "She's So Heavy" from Abbey Road. There is a lot of fun meanness in this piece, with Birds menacing tone taking someone down a verbal dark alley.
A nice break after "So Cool," "No Saints Can Say" features their combined vocal prowess, cooing in harmony for several seconds.
"Somedays" gets a ska beat from percussionist Eric Michael Kelly on congas, while "Heart Of The City" receives a fine electric guitar atmospheric from Mancini. Meanwhile, Rubys accordion fills in the spaces in this aggressive piece, and this texture makes it an even more palpable rocker.
Ruby further displays her ability with accordion texture on "Long Road Home," a shuffling country two-step with drummer Jim Clements giving it something people could groove to at their local honky-tonks. "Not This Time" showcases more of Mancinis tasty guitar licks in this classic rock inspired ballad with many twists and turns in the songs direction.
Ruby even wrote washy accordion melodies to her grandmothers poem "Red Geraniums," a piece that challenged her ability to set herself to someone elses words, and she met the challenge admirably. Her voice sounds dreamy, other-worldly, and contemplative, bringing a new texture of emotion to the words.
This third studio album by the couple under their Bird Mancini moniker - and their fourth if you count their disc as The Sky Blues plays out in part like a Ruby Bird lecture-demonstration of the accordion. Without pretension, Ms Bird can use her accordion to great effect in many kinds of song structures. Although "Not This Time" is primarily a slow guitar burn ballad, Ruby holds her own on the squeeze box before she eventually shifts gears and turns the piece into an accordion ballad.
I could go on and on. There are many nice details in this new Bird Mancini release. Audiophiles, taste mongers, upscale night clubs, and the duo own loyal following will likely find themselves returning for repeated listening. Enjoy!
Doug's Top 5 for August 2007 in Metronome Magazine:
The husband and wife team of Ruby and Bill are the heart and soul behind the band Bird Mancini. On their latest album, Funny Day, the duo employs a host of side musicians that include bassists John Bridge, Rick Calcagni & Sven Larson, drummers Larry Harvey, Jim Clements & Mike Ahrens, percussionist Eric Michael Kelley, violinist Clara Kebabian and guitarist Mr. Curt to bring their well-penned compositions to fruition. The album opens with a song called "Holly" that finds Ruby and Bill sharing lead vocal chores. This song is a real masterpiece both lyrically and musically and should be a big seller on iTunes.
There's no escaping the Beatles influences on Funny Day or the psychedelic feel to this album, and whether intentional or not, Ruby and Bill create some of the coolest vocal harmonies and melodies since the heydays of the sixties. Songs of particular note to Beatles fans include "Rest of My Life," and the Sgt. Pepper's era influenced "So Cool." But that's not all Bird Mancini offers up from their extensive bag of tricks. There's a beautiful Celtic number that was originally written by Ruby's grandmother called "Red Geraniums," a gorgeously recorded and produced vocal track entitled "No Saints Can Say," and a Pink Floyd inspired song called "Heart of The City" that will give you an idea of the depth of this talented act.
With a mounting catalog of recorded music, Bird Mancini's new CD, Funny Day, is another colorful feather in their cap.
Reviewed by Keith “MuzikMan” Hannaleck
Label: Second Story Records
After a three year wait Bird Mancini has returned with a follow up to Year of
Change. Funny Day is step away from the previous release in that it is more
focused on one style and sound.
Funny Day is made up of 13 infectious and addictive rock-pop-psych gems. Once
again, Billy Carl Mancini and Ruby Bird form the dynamic duo (sorry Batman
fans, lack of other descriptive words don’t come to mind at the moment). Billy
and Ruby provide a great vocal interplay and some beautiful harmonies on every
track. Billy wails away on his guitar as Ruby’s accordion is a constant in the
background-and after a fashion, it sounds like a soothing and underlying
organ vibe to flesh out the tracks.
The two factors that are paramount to any successful recording are stellar
musicianship and vocals that can live up to the musical output and blend with it
effortlessly. The couple manages this process very well and come out of it
with 13 unyielding tracks. The title track is my spot on pick for airplay and
the follow up to that would be “Rest Of My Life.” If I were a DJ that is how
I would spin them. Those are two favorites; the rest of the album is
completely enjoyable as well. “Heart Of The City” is a unique tune, Billy starts
it off with Lou Reed like intro and continues to interject the lyrics this way in
between singing verses normally, it provides a break for reflection and puts an
entirely different spin on it while emphasizing the importance of what the
song means. The track offers some cynicism on life in corporate USA…the daily
grind and teeth clenching drive into the city, then all the arriving suits
looking like the clones they are walking the streets to their clone like
I think the message here is that although many have found success and money
in big business they have become the robots of the corporations that created
them-A modern day Stepford Wives (a 70s flick that was remade in 2004) if you
will. This is something I have referenced several times because it puts this
kind of thought process into proper perspective, if you are familiar with the
movie it will make sense.
The message comes across clearly and never gets lost in the music; the sounds
provided actually act as a launching pad for the lyrics and allow them to
enter your consciousness effectively as you rock out. This is a perfect
combination and the CD booklet has all the lyrics to encourage this. I actually
checked out all the lyrics after listening to this CD for the fourth or fifth time.
Although I was paying attention with each listen, I found revisiting the words
in silence allowed me to digest this project. My ears and mind became one
(hopefully as the artist intended it) upon the next listen. That is how it worked
for me and I loved every second of it.
Interesting enough I spoke to Billy and told him I thought it was quite
different from the last release and his response was “You are the first person that
said that,” and hopefully not the last otherwise, I will start wondering if I
am really living on a different planet as my wife always tells me.
This is a triumphant return for this marvelous Boston based band. Anyone that
enjoys rock and pop and has an affinity for 60s psychedelic tinged pop
(Beatles, Stones etc.) will love this CD.
CD Review: Bird Mancini - Funny Day
Artist: Bird Mancini
Title: Funny Day
Style: Psychedelic Rock / Pop
Rating: 8.40 out of 10
At the heart of Bird Mancini are Ruby Bird (vocals, keyboards, harmonica,
accordion) and Billy Carl Mancini (vocals, electric and acoustic guitars). You'll
also find several other musicians providing additional instrumentation on
individual songs on Funny Day.
As soon as Funny Day starts to play, you realize that you're in for a real
treat. The 13 tracks found on Funny Day have a rock n' roll base with many
elements added on top. Every style from pop and psychedelic rock to
a capella and even a dash of an alt-country sound can be found on the song
"Long Road Home."
Bird Mancini fans have been waiting almost three years for this new release.
I think that they'll find the wait was well worth it. Funny Day features rich
harmonies, lush vocal arrangements and enough interesting nuance to fill up
the famed California Rose Bowl.
Ruby and Billy share lead vocals on the songs, but the other one is always
there to provide those rich harmonies. The interplay between Billy's
ever-changing guitar riffs and Ruby's accordion really clicks. I've never heard the
accordion used so well in a rock n' roll release.
As for those nuance sounds, they come by way of a massive list of
instruments, some of which I've never have heard of before. Here are just a few of them: e-bow, glockenspiel, avocado shaker, cabasa, claves, kalimba, guiro,
washboard, egg shaker, cowbell, ocean drum, triangle and monk bell.
Funny Day ends with the poignant song "Red Geraniums." It's poetry set to
music. Ruby's grandmother liked to write poems and Red Geraniums was one of them that had a special meaning and was recited at her funeral. After hearing the
poem many times, a song snapped into Ruby's mind for it and she dedicated this
song to her grandmother.
With Funny Day Bird Mancini manages to pull from music's past and mix it with
modern musical elements to create a sound that, while sounding familiar, is
still fresh and innovative.
Musicians put their stamp on local scene
GateHouse News Service
“Funny Day” (Second Story Records), the new album from Bird Mancini, the Roslindale-based duo of Ruby Bird and Billy Carl Mancini, gives us all kinds of diversity: a program of guitar- and accordion-driven pop-rock songs, with a bit of blues, angelic choral music, Celtic sounds, belted out vocals, solid harmonies, and plenty more.
Though there isn’t a bad song on the album, a smidgen of nitpicking goes toward the order of them. I would have kicked it off with more of a grabber — maybe the driving, haunting “Through Your Eyes,” featuring multi-layered vocals that break into a Ruby growl, then segued into the kind of scary “So Cool,” which matches a menacing, wrenching Ruby vocal with a fast, screaming guitar solo from Billy, and some booming Larry Harvey drums.
Standout songs include the gorgeously blended a cappella “No Saints Can Say,” which brings to mind something to the effect of middle-period Beach Boys ... on acid; “Heart of the City,” which starts out in a psychedelia-drenched mood, then moves into areas of good, old-fashioned rock, while telling a tale of wanting, needing, to get away from city life; and time- and style-changing “Not This Time,” a piece that, in terms of its complicated structure (is it actually three or four songs in one?), would give Paul McCartney a run for his
"Doug's Top 6 for February 2005"
BIRDS IN THE ATTIC
15 TRACK DVD
Bird Mancini is one of the few Boston acts that have had the opportunity to
record a DVD of one of their live shows. Shot at the famed Attic in Newton
in March of 2004 it features the lineup of Ruby Bird (Mason) on vocals,
keyboards, accordion, harmonica and melodica, Billy Carl Mancini (Mason) on vocals and guitar, Kevin Mahoney on vocals and bass guitar and Nancy Delaney on vocals and drums, Bird Mancini took full advantage of cameras rolling and delivered a high quality musical performance.
Outstanding footage of songs from the band's latest release "Year of
Change" includes the tracks "Wrong People" with excellent vocal harmonies, Bill's
tasteful guitar work on "Year of Change," the contemporary cool of "Long Gone
Blues," the anthemic swoon of "Love Holds On," "Just Wait and See"
punctuated by Ruby's fine accordion work and the super-slick "You're My Obsession."
Expertly filmed by Mr. Curt, Diane Andronica, Chuck Rosina, Ms Donna and
Tim Casey and produced and edited by Casey for his Lowbudget Records company,
Bird Mancini's "Birds In The Attic" is a soaring masterpiece of sight and sound!
YEAR OF CHANGE (SECOND STORY)
For their second collaboration as Bird Mancini, Bostonians Ruby Bird and Billy Carl Mancini stay a little closer to the blues pocket throughout than was the case on their more eclectic debut album. While the wider spectrum of sounds on the last effort was big fun, and I'm still a big fan of the album, there are undeniable advantages to the current approach. Sometimes playing to your
strengths is a better call than playing everything you can, and Year Of Change proves to be one of those times.
Part of the new sound, and one of the changes referenced in the title, is the appearance of a new rhythm section, bassist Kevin Mahoney and drummer Nancy Delaney. Veterans of the Boston club scene, the rhythm duo sets their groove in concrete, leaving Bird and Mancini free to bring virtually every track to a series of rising crescendos.
I don't mean to imply that this is a blues album. There are blues roots apparent, and even a real blues track or two, but it's a rock album through and through. Neither is the eclecticism that made the last album so noteworthy completely absent. When Ruby Bird picks up her accordion, for instance, she can transport the whole band in a Delta direction, and Mancini has an astonishing range of tonal colors on his guitar palette, but this time the eclecticism has a
more disciplined feeling - variations on a theme rather than varied themes. All of which largely misses the point, which is that this is a terrific album, full of good songs, strong harmonies and rock solid musicianship. This year, change is good.
Wrong People * You're My Obsession * Don't You Fall * Oh, Babe * Year Of
Change * Sirens In The Night * Love Holds On * River Of Sighs * You're Not Alone *
Just Wait And See * Long Gone Blues * Freedom Soul * Someone Like You * The
© 2005 - Shaun Dale
Year of Change
Genre: Rock-Honky Tonk-Blues-Pop
Label: Second Story Records
Over two years ago, I was fascinated with the band called Bird Mancini. Their self-titled album captured my imagination and kept me interested from start to finish. Today their music came knockin' on my door again. Two years and hundreds of reviews later, I could not remember exactly what they sounded like, but I knew I liked them! Well, it did not take long·after putting on their new disc Year of Change I shook out those cobwebs and reintroduced myself to their
There is one problem here; they gave me 14 tracks of eclectic mesmerizing music to sink my teeth into, again, so where do I start? Well, there are four people in this band, two men and two women. Ruby Bird and Billy Carl Mancini share the lead vocal duties while Kevin Mahoney thumps away on the bass (and sings lead vocals on two songs "Oh, Babe" and "You're Not Alone") and Nancy Delaney provides the rhythm for him to keep in step with on the drums, in between all of that action they both provide steadfast backup vocals. Bird is a multi-instrumentalist on keys, accordion, melodica (and backup vocals), while Mancini plays one mean ass guitar and provides some percussion (and backup vocals).
Two blues soaked rockers are what caught my ear the most. "Just Wait And See" and "Long Gone Blues." The spirit of these two songs is what makes them so convincing, and the character of the entire album keeps the ball-rollin' non-stop throughout the run of this impressive recording. At first when you hear their name, curiosity gets the best of you and you have to check them out, then you hear their music·it's all she wrote, you are sold, it is the knockout
punch floors you. When you hear the hook filled "Someone Like You" or the opening swamp boogie licks from the closing track "The Future's Begun," I guarantee you will be coming back for more on a regular basis. This band is fresh, different, and very progressive, now that is my cup of tea, how about you?
*Evolution Scale: 9/10
METRONOME MAGAZINE October 2004
"Doug's Top 5 for October 2004"
YEAR OF CHANGE
Fronted by the husband and wife team of Bill and Ruby Mason, Bird Mancini is one of Boston's finest blues-rock acts. With the addition of two new band members, Kevin Mahoney on bass guitar & vocals, and Nancy Delaney on drums & vocals, Bill & Ruby seem to have found their musical counterparts as is evident on their latest offering "Year of Change."
This is by far the best recording the Mason's have ever released either under the Bird Mancini moniker or by their old group, The Sky Blues. Solid compositions bolstered by lush arrangements, layered instrumentation and great vocal performances by both Ruby and Bill, set this disc in a category of its own. Whether the band's pumpin' out a power groove like the album opener "Wrong People," complete with great harmonica playing and a slick guitar solo outro, laying down a tremolo laden spy/surf riff like "Don't You Fall" punctuated by Ruby's fine vocals or dealing up the power anthem "Love Holds On," with its mesmerizing guitar hook and tone and Ruby's stellar singing, Bird Mancini is clearly on to something special.
Other highlights include the country tinged "Just Wait and See," complete with the addition of some slippery accordion work by Ruby, and the Three Dog Night influenced "Someone Like You." If you haven't had the pleasure of hearing Bird Mancini before, I highly suggest you seek out this album at CDbaby.com or on the band's website. You'll be in for a real treat.
BOSTON BLUES NEWS REVIEW / INTERVIEW
YEAR OF CHANGE by BIRD MANCINI
Bird Mancini has been a consistent presence in the local blues circuit for many years. Once known as The Sky Blues Band, the quartet changed their name to Bird Mancini a few years ago. They recorded a debut CD under the new name and simply titled the album "Bird Mancini."
That recording reflected a new musical direction that found the band stretching their blues influences to incorporate other forms of American roots music. After two years of hard work, Bird Mancini has recently released a second CD, "Year Of Change." Singer and guitarist Billy Carl Mancini and his band worked on the new CD during a period of transitions for the band members and that is reflected in the title track.
"There's a song on it called "Year Of Change." We searched, and we thought and came up with a million names and ended up calling it the name of that particular song," Mancini said. "The song itself is a very heavy subject, but you might not know it by listening to the lyrics. I didn't want it to be too heavy. It's about something my mom said a couple of days before she died. So,
it's a song written about that. You don't hear the lyrics and think that. It could be about anything changing in your life."
Another change came in the bandâs line-up. Bird Mancini replaced their previous drummer with "Southside" Nancy Delaney. "We've had her for about a year now. We had actually started on the CD with our prior drummer, who was on the first CD, and when he left the band we scrapped all those tracks and started from square one so it would all reflect her." And the tracks reflect Delaney's suggestions, he said. "I gave everyone in the band as much creative input as they wanted and in some cases she came up with different changes," Mancini said. "And we went with some of them. For example, a song called "Love Holds On," which turned into a rock waltz tempo. Bird Mancini also features Mancini's wife Ruby Bird on lead vocals and keyboards along with Kevin Mahoney on bass and lead vocals.
Bird Mancini incorporates elements from many different genres of music. The unmistakable presence of blues influences are felt through out the album. The simple and stark tunes as well as the songs with harmonies, complex arrangements, and intricate lead guitar solos keep that blues flavoring. "I can't get away from it," Mancini exclaimed. "It's just the way I play, I suppose. You can play a blues solo over almost any type of song or any type of music. If you listen to Clapton, even when he's playing a pop tune, he still sounds like a blues guitarist. It's just my style. I don't think about it. It just comes out that way. I spent a lot of time listening to them. For quite a while I actually used do to the sound at Harper's Ferry when Stovall Brown
or Rick Russell were doing their blues jams. So I got pretty over exposed to it there as well."
A fairly heavy blues tune on their new CD called "You're Not Alone" has some of the slickest blues guitar licks on the album. "That's actually written by our bass player, Kevin Mahoney. I had some input on that. It was his song, but I had a little input. The whole intro was something that I came up with. He gave me that free reign. We just drenched it with blues licks, but it's kind
of a blues song to begin with.
Ms. Bird gets to show off her blues vocal chops a little bit on "Don't You Fall," a cautionary tale for young women on the make. Bird holds a high note for a very long time while the song moves out of the bridge and back into the chorus. That moment is a combination of grace and talent that showcases what this band is trying to accomplish musically.
"She's self-taught," Mancini said. "That's just something that she's always been able to do, to take a note and hang onto it forever. We like to give her one of those notes at least on any given CD because she can hang onto it and never run out of breath." Mancini's guitar solo on the title track, "Year Of Change," is another highlight of the new recording. Listening to it only makes one wonder what kind of learning goes into that kind of musicianship. "It's just influenced by people Iâve always listened to like Clapton, even Santana, even Lindsay Buckingham,
although you may not see that. But those are some of my favorite people. I don't know if it's influenced by anybody I've worked with. It's more who I've listened to. It's just me taking off. It's just an improv solo. It's not a thought-out solo where as another of Kevin's songs called "Oh Babe," my solo in the center of that is very thought out in the pop rock thing. We do a lot of
jamming live, and so I wanted to get some of that on the CD too." Mancini also said that because of the improvised nature of the solo, fans will never see them do the song the same way twice.
It took the quartet a year to come up with "Year Of Change." Mixing took up a lot of the time as they decided which one out of ten to twelve mixes for each song they wanted to put on their CD. "But it's out finally," Mancini said, sighing relief. The band produced it themselves at Second Story Studio in Boston, which has also been owned and operated by Mancini himself for the last 11 years. Some of his clients included Racky Thomas, The Coots, The Rampage Trio, and Mr. Curt and Open Hand.
The concept of change was on their minds when Bird Mancini was finishing up the art work for jackets. Printed on the jacket are words like alteration, mutation, variation, and even five dollar word like transubstantiation and transmigration. Mancini said he had to look some of those words up to find out what they mean. Bird Mancini has contracted with The Planetary Group to promote the CD on 150 radio stations, including several college stations. As for the cool band name Bird Mancini. Mancini goes by this stage name because his real name Bill Mason belongs to several thousand other guys. "Billy Carl Mancini distinguishes me from the guy who sits in the studio. It's an old family name. That's where the name comes from; same thing with Bird, which is an old family name of Ruby's."
BIRD MANCINI-YEAR OF CHANGE
The name is taken from the two lead musicians of the band. This would be Ruby Bird (accordion, harmonica, melodica, lead & back up vocals) and Billy Carl Mancini (guitars, percussion, lead & back up vocals). Rounding out this completely co-ed quartet is Kevin Mahoney (bass, lead & back up vocals) and Nancy Delaney (drums & back up vocals). The album is quite diverse from song to song. The change in instrumental style and the trade-off between vocal leads make for a disc that is quite different, stimulating, and unpredictable.
Track by Track Review:
WRONG PEOPLE: This has the temperament, boogie, and swagger of a Bonnie Raitt ditty. Bird's voice is a lot like Bonnie's. Her harmonica is a nice touch too.
YOU'RE MY OBSESSION: This is a bluesy Beatles tune. One of the men takes lead and the harmonica sticks around for another series.
DON'T YOU FALL: The pace slows down and the lights dim for the steamy opening montage from a James Bond flick. The bass bursts in your mouth like buttery salty popcorn. The guitar twangs like a fizzing cup of cola as it's sucked through a straw.
OH, BABE: This song is Billy Joel, Matthew Sweet, Elvis Costello, and Bruce Springsteen all rolled into one. The guitar playing is superb here.
YEAR OF CHANGE: Legends will come to mind in the title track. The melodies sound peculiarly similar to Jim Hendrix's Little Wing. The singing invokes images of Jeff Buckley. The amazing harmonies and added instrumental complexities make this the best song on the album.
SIRENS IN THE NIGHT: This song moves slowly like rolling tumbleweeds in a dry desolate desert. This is more unplugged and less lively than their earlier songs. The acoustic guitar and bells gives it an old-fashioned feel.
LOVE HOLDS ON: Bird's voice continues to show its range. In this song, she sings like Donna Summers. This is a spirited ballad suited for a dance hall. Stars from a disco ball roam the floors and climb the walls.
RIVER OF SIGHS: This song would be welcome on NDV's Karma. "River of Signs" sounds a bit like "The River is Wide" off that album.
YOU'RE NOT ALONE: The singing and guitar playing are reminiscent of Stevie Ray Vaughn. This is straightforward blues.
JUST WAIT AND SEE: This is quite a switch from the last. The song is a slice of country. Bird is a blend of Reba McEntire and Dolly Parton. The guitars and keyboards incorporate a little jazz into the mix.
LONG GONE BLUES: This is far from downtrodden as the blues in this song is incredibly upbeat. It reminds me of Bachman Turner Overdrive's "Takin' Care of Business". There is even a riff straight out of K.C. & The Sunshine Band's "That's the Way (I Like It)". It is quite apparent that the blues are long, long gone.
FREEDOM SOUL: Both the old and the new are encountered here. This track takes fifties bebop from the past and merges it with modern pop.
SOMEONE LIKE YOU: A variety of influences can be heard in this song. The opening sequence sounds like The Beatles' "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds". Bird's singing teeter-totters between disco and country. One moment she's Diana Ross, she's Jo Dee Messina the next. She crosses genres within a single breath and shows herself to be one distinct diva. This fusion of styles makes this another highlight on the album.
THE FUTURE'S BEGUN: The last track demonstrates refined songwriting skill, yet it still manages to leave enough room for some experimental guitar playing. After keeping our interests through a collection of varied pieces, Bird Mancini finishes on a sound note.