Eleni Mandell

Country for True Lovers

Los Angeles-based singer-songwriter Eleni Mandell may be a goddess of contemporary music, but she hasn’t been a country singer. Until now, that is. Heretofore, she seemed content to graft Julie London-styled deadpan cool onto an arty, organically textural soundbed à la post-Swordfishtrombones Tom Waits. On this, her fourth album, she’s hooked up with producer Tony Gilkyson (X, Lone Justice) and some of L.A.’s finest country players and made the kind of record that might make Harlan Howard grandly tumescent, if he were still living. Most of the songs, like delicious opener “Another Lonely Heart,” are originals and are sung with a sensual torpor befitting a bed-headed Patsy Cline. (Only Mandell’s Juice Newton-like “Tell Me Twice” doesn’t fit the character of her voice.) Cover versions range from Merle Haggard’s swell “I’ve Got a Tender Heart” to Naomi Neville’s languid “It’s Raining.” Sublime.