Michael Mandrell

Artist of the Month | June 2010


Micheal uses the PowerMix Pure system, he wrote us:

“When I heard the sound of one of your pickups a while back I thought, man, that’s the sound I want! I have this cool little parlor style guitar built in 1988 out of wonderful old Rosewood but had this ancient piezo installed in it that was state of the art at the time but still sounded like a big rubber band. Luthier Kerry Char here in Portland did a fabulous job installing your PowerMix Pure Mini XT combination. I picked up my guitar from his shop the evening before I left on a tour and was somewhat nervous because there was not much time to dial it in. When I plugged it in it was sounding so great I didn’t even have to adjust the preamp settings at all, I just took off and played the shows right out of the box as it were. Really nice harmonics off he treble strings and a solid warm bass, what more could you want?”

Michael Mandrell is an artistic and passionate contemporary American fingerstyle guitarist with an ear for the creative side of the world fusion genre. Michael’s music delivers 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 anticipating the release of his first solo guitar CD, “Returning and Returned, in July 2010. 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.”

To be on Michael’s music email list for his new CD release announcement and upcoming concert dates in your area please write to Michaelmandrell@earthlink.net and please mention the city where you live.

The Back Story:

T he 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 Stephen 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 www.cdbaby.com/cd/mandrellbird

Cascadia produced with David Michael 2008 Purnima Productions




Links to friends mentioned in this article:

Erich Avinger eavinger@gmail.com 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/

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