Mando Saenz

Mando Saenz
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Wandering the streets of Houston, playing regular gigs at bars like the Continental Club, or settling down for drinks with the kinds of characters that populate poetry (but rarely read it), Mando Saenz wrote it all down – in melody, on little scraps of paper, or in his head. Like the gloriously disorganized life he observed in his former neighborhood, his songs usually aren’t about linear expectations or predictable narratives, they are flashes of emotion, snapshots of time reassembled in his songs with rhyme and melody to make uncommon, musical sense. He carried most of the songs from Houston to his new home in Nashville, finishing out a few of them with co-writers like Will Kimbrough, Kim Richey and R.S Field, a first for the previously lone writer. The songs on his new album Bucket, are still populated with life’s losers, soul-searchers, and dreamers - the kind songwriting that won him praise for his more acoustic-tinged debut, Watertown. But this time, he leaves the Texas imagery behind. For his second album Mando distanced himself musically and thematically from his past. Partnered with some of roots-rock’s most potent musicians – Kenny Vaughn, Richard Bennett, Tony Crow, Jason Lehning, and Chris Carmichael -- and helmed by producer R.S. Field, Bucket’s distorted guitars and chiming acoustics punctuate Mando’s haunting tenor and unexpected phrases. Born in San Luis Potosi, Mexico and raised in Corpus Christi by his music-loving parents on an eclectic diet of 60s-era songwriters, traditional Mexican music and the Everly brothers, Mando Saenz began guitar lessons at the age of 11. But the realization that he could write and perform music for a living didn’t hit until he had done the ‘responsible thing’ and earned an MBA - if only to stick it in his back pocket. He began playing live full-time and the response was encouragement enough to launch his career in DIY fashion. Soon, he joined the line of notable singer-songwriters to chronicle their lives in Texas via Watertown – originally self-released until landing in the hands of Carnival Music. “Watertown had a definite underlying theme, and in some sense was almost a concept record – kind of revealing a lot of hidden truths,” he says. “Bucket changes gears a bit more and I wasn’t afraid into slipping into a love song” The opening track of Bucket begins with exotic strumming and thumping tablas, matched with a drum loop and chiming, echoing guitar coming in slowly. “Wrong Guy” juxtaposes mellow mid-tempo pop-country with the macho, defiant stance of the narrator who is warning that he’s a difficult person to be in a relationship -- saying “And don’t call my name / Cause I’ll be right there with a bucket of hate.” The leadoff single, “Pocket of Red,” is the flipside of “Wrong Guy,” -- written from the other person’s perspective. Mando finished it with Kim Richey, and really wanted the hopeful pop-sounding music to reflect the alter ego of the song. Another song he wrote with Richey - “All Grown Up,” Mando says, is about being “old and educated but you still don’t know what the to say sometimes.” “Pittsburgh” is that song that hopefully every artist stumbles across – the song that everyone asks for during live shows, with a lilting melody that easily slips under the skin. It has been recorded, but never released. Mando started it with the melody, and pieced together the lyrics by writing 30 or so of random phrases that fit each line of the music then he, “puzzled them together as best I could to keep the sentiment of the song; which is really up for grabs at the end of the day.” It wasn’t until Bucket that Mando says they finally got it the way he heard it in his head, and it will always be a cornerstone of his live shows. “Seven Dollars” was written about being broke and young in a bar in Houston and having just the amount to get you by. Mando believes it’s “pretty abstract but pretty specific at the same time,” which is a pretty good way to describe the album as a whole. But the song Mando sees as maybe being the most autobiographical on the album is “Touch is All.” “It’s a song about moving around to be happy or not be happy,” Mando explains, “Or just feeling the need to move, whether it’s moving to another town or just being restless in a restaurant. It’s about not being able to stay in one place for very long -- and at the same time finding it hard not to miss for lots of reasons. Many of which you don’t realize till your gone. The title refers to how much it takes to stay with you and also bring you back.” It’s this restlessness that drove him from Texas to Tennessee and that brought him to his new musical milieu, but has all the movement meant musical change? At the end of the day, Mando believes that “Songs are songs. Whether they were written in Texas, Tennessee or Idaho doesn’t really matter.”

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01/22/2008 - Mando Saenz, an artist on the rise in Nashville, returns home - Read More
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Average Rating : 4.8              Total Reviews: 9

Mando Saenz  05/07/2008            
Slim Jr.
Very cool cd, can't take it out of the changer! "Seven dollars in my coat, don't you worry anymore!"
Mando Saenz  05/02/2008            
Open minded listener
I got this cd off itunes after hearing a couple songs off galleywinter. The melodies and the production are awesome, but I CAN'T UNDERSTAND A DAMN THING HE'S SINGING! Only after finding lyrics online was I able to discern that the guy can also write (or co-write) some pretty good lyrics. I wish I could give this one five stars. I still recommend giving it a listen, maybe somebody else has better ears than I do. Geez. DOES NO ONE ELSE HAVE THIS PROBLEM WITH THIS CD? There are definitely some songs on here that would get this guy noticed, but they'd have to be re-engineered or something.
Mando Saenz  02/28/2008            
Wow. Walt Wilkins meets Bob Dylan meets Jackson Browne. Buy both cds. Great stuff.
Mando Saenz  02/05/2008            
What can you say. This is an artist on the RISE!
Mando Saenz  12/06/2006            
where can i buy this in toronto , ontario? it is incredible .
Mando Saenz  11/04/2004            
Got his CD from a friend. Now my wife can't put the thing down. Awesome down to earth sound that makes you hit repeat on the radio. Everytime you hear the CD it feels like you are hearing it for the first time!
Mando Saenz  12/20/2002            
Great laid back sound. Occasionally a little like Lyle Lovett. Song writing is particularly strong. Very good band, when they all play together.
Mando Saenz  06/19/2002            
I've never met Mando Saenz until a friend of mine played a song of his in his truck one night and I was immediately hooked on this guy. I've still yet to meet him but if he's as good as his music, I'm sure we'll get along. Finally someone who just happens to be a singer/songwriter, but doesn't sound like every other joe blow out there ranting and raving about Texas this and Texas that. If you're looking for frivolous "Texas music" and beer-drinking-in-your-face-mindless-hop-scotch tunes, you won't find them on this album. You, as the listener might just find yourself gaining the self control to shut the hell up and to really listen to this beautiful piece of work. It's a departure from what main stream anything has become: call it country, call it folk, but one thing's for sure Mando stands on his own. He's not as notorious as Cross Canadian Ragweed, but it's his music, not his image that will blow you away. Music this good doesn't need the necessity of hype. With production and vision from Tommy Detamore, a sleeper steel guitar player from San Antonio, they're doing something genuine. Hopefully the rest of country music will follow their lead and others like them. Outstandingly refreshing Mando.
Mando Saenz  05/03/2002            
Mando Saenz is an amazing talent with his rich lyrical tapestries woven into a soulful, heartfelt blanket that leaves you feeling snug and warm. His smooth, dreamy voice lingers in the air like incense for your ears. His songs speak of life and love, times of great happiness and also painful memories of loss and regret.
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