Liz Melendez
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Liz Melendez


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"Liz Melendez touches fans with her eartly blues"

Liz Melendez touches fans with her earthy blues

By Steve Wildsmith
of The Daily Times Staff

May 02. 2008

To some people, such an encounter might seem like an example of oddball behavior that tends to go hand-in-hand with too much beer.

To blues woman Liz Melendez, however, it's a poignant moment out of hundreds she's had over the years, and it happened in downtown Maryville at Brackins Blues Bar. It was a moment of communication between artist and fan, an unspoken exchange of sounds that touch the soul.

"There was this biker couple, and they came in with their do-rags and their leathers on, and they were just so into the music," Melendez recalled to The Daily Times this week. "They were dancing all night long and just really loving life. After the show, she came up to me and said, 'I've been listening to you all night long, and it's great and I think you rock. I want you to come outside and check something out.'

"So I went outside with her, and she went up to this beautiful, $40,000 Harley, and she said, 'Now, I want you to hear what I love.' And she was just so excited, because she had been listening to me share my music, and here she was wanting to share something of her life, something that spoke to her heart and pleased her. And she got on and started it up, and man -- it was a beautiful-sounding Harley, too."

As long as she's been in the business, you'd think a performer like Melendez would roll her eyes and adopt a cynical view of such overt displays of enthusiasm. But it speaks to her own artistic soul, her connection to the music she loves and the people who love to hear her make it, that she's still able to be touched by such a display.

Born and raised in New Mexico, Melendez moved to Atlanta in the late 1990s, where she honed her prowess as a guitarist, vocalist, songwriter and performer. She's compared to a lot of ace axe-slingers, but one name that continually pops up is that of the late Stevie Ray Vaughan -- so much so that every couple of months, she puts on a full Stevie Ray tribute show.

She's performed with everyone from E.G. Kight to Chris Duarte, and she has two albums to her name -- 2001's "Mercy," and the darker-themed "Sweet Southern Soul," released a few years later. That record was influenced by the death of her father -- one of her biggest supporters and the man who taught her to play guitar -- as well as the globe-changing events of Sept. 11.

Growing up, she relied heavily on her father's support and wisdom -- he started her out learning rock and blues standards, assuring her that it would one day make sense. It did when she discovered the blues-based rock of Zeppelin and Sabbath, the Latin rock of Santana and the music of Stevie Ray Vaughan, whose Southern-soaked blues would change everything for her.

His death hit her hard, but her next album -- which she's writing at a feverish pace to complete -- is leaning in the other direction, she said.

"I feel like a lot of really good things are happening, and I feel really positive," she said. "I feel like my message on the next record is going to come more from that point. I feel better and healthier in so many ways, and I hope this album will reflect that. The strength of my playing is better than it's ever been, and I have a clarity, a focus, that's been a divine gift for me, and I'm excited to see what comes of that."

She's also signed a development deal with King Mojo Records, which picked up and distributed "Sweet Southern Soul" and is urging her to complete a new album. Having that kind of backing and demand, she said, keeps her creative fires burning.

"It'll still have that '70s blues-rock feel and that Southern rock feel, but it'll probably be a little more Latin-influenced than the last one," she said of her next effort. "That's been kind of exciting."

In the meantime, she's been touring non-stop and working with other artists like Big Shanty, a label mate who blends hip-hop, rock and blues together and has drawn in guests like Melendez and Col. Bruce Hampton from the Aquarium Rescue Unit.

It's always good, though, to come back to familiar territory like Brackins, where the unexpected little exchanges between artist and fan keep her love of music as passionate as ever.

"Brackins is exactly the kind of place I like to play -- it's a nice mix of people, and they're there for the music," she said. "The bar is all about music, and that's really kind of cool for those of us who like people to come out and hear what we do."

- The Daily Times

"Liz Melendez Band - Independent Release"


Sweet Southern Soul
Independent Release
10 tracks. 38.34 mins.
by Ponch

October 2005

Liz's previous CD, Mercy, was reviewed in issue 6, here we have her new one and how she has grown - the sound is fuller and the voice stronger! This is one fine album, if you like the rocky side then here is a lady for you. The title track is catchy and the voice soulful. No More Love has a building intro to power level and lift off! Like warming up your car then taking off on a hard drive. Drink From My Cup is Liz in ballad form, neat organ here and electro acoustic plays neatly, Caza De El Nino is a short instrumental, Justice County lifts to an emotional climax then fades, Do My Thing has a good groove, Battle Cry Rhythm has an interesting start and climactic tribal sense about it, eerie but hooks you in. What a great album!
- Blues Matters Magazine UK

"The Latina Santana"

Liz Melendez - The Latina Santana

by Roberta M. Rosas
Mija Magazine
December, 2004

While walking in to a venue your ears would lead you to believe that you were attending a Santana concert, but we are entering into a new era when it comes to Latinas and guitars.

Liz Melendez, whom I refer to as the “Latina Santana” has been around for years. Born and raised in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Liz began playing guitar at the tender age of 5 with her father (Dan Melendez) teaching her rock & roll and blues standards. “He really taught me about music, not just how to play the instruments, but how to be a good "musician". Just like her father, Liz listened to a lot of blues & blues rockers of the 70’s as a child. As the vocal/guitarist area Bonnie Raitt was a big influence to Liz as well as Carlos Santana, Freddie King, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Jimi Hendrix for solo guitar players. Liz was also inspired as a song writer by Paul Simon and Van Morrison.

Just like any Latina trying to break barriers, people find a genuine curiosity in anything you do out of the ordinary, “I have never been disrespected as a Latina in the music world because I don't think people know what to make of it. Mostly, I get a great deal of support. The world of being a Latina growing up in the south valley in Albuquerque, New Mexico is light years away from being a guitarist/vocalist in Atlanta, Georgia. I've often compared the assimilation of being a Latina/o in the mainstream world to dancing to two drummers. Because the world we live in at our homes with our families is so different than our professional world, it is like living two lives but each side of that life can have positive influence on the other. I do think being a Latina gives me the confidence and fortitude to do what I do and it gives me a unique perspective and a vast amount of cultural inspiration for music as well as just living life.”

Her first time performance was with her friend Loyd Ortega, in front of an audience at her high school talent show. Where they won 1st place for Best Musical Act and he let her keep the trophy (how sweet).

Liz has a sincere and real love for musical expression. “A fellow musician once told me that there is a difference between a "musician" and someone who plays an instrument. Someone who plays an instrument can decide not to play music....a "musician" doesn't have a choice. You will always feel the inspiration to make music because your love for musical expression is part of who you are and making music is like breathing. Whenever the business side of music becomes frustrating I just focus on the music. That is what it's all about to me.” stated Liz.

Picking up a guitar makes Liz feel feels the same as the first time she picked up her dad’s Fender Mustang as a kid. “I was listening to "I Wonder Why" by Freddie King and the intro to that song had completely captivated me. I wanted my dad to teach me how to play it but it was a little beyond my 5 year-old proficiency so he started off by teaching me "Wipe Out". I immediately connected with the instrument and few weeks later he started teaching me other songs like "Johnny B. Goode". I loved the feeling of hitting the strings and hearing a song come out. Now playing guitar feels a little more like talking or singing and I can easily become lost in the sound of it. When you're in that zone, whether you're playing on a stage or in your living room, the instrument becomes part of you and you can play like that for hours. It can be very spiritual and very intoxicating.” said Liz.

If the guitar was never invented she would’ve ended up an attorney, so thank God for the guitar!

For you beginning artists Liz’s advice to you is, “Follow your instincts and don’t trust the wrong people.”

Liz’s words of inspiration for all Mijas out there that may want to follow in her footsteps: ”The best thing to do is to learn as much as possible about your career endeavor whatever it may be. Taking the time to learn as much as possible will help you be better prepared to handle the ups and downs of your career experience. Make a commitment to your mission before you set out on your path. When you hit a bump in the road just remember your goal and stay focused on it.”

- Mija Magazine

"Home-Coming for a Curly-Headed Headliner"

Homecoming for a Curly-headed Headliner

by Paul Weideman
The Santa Fe New Mexican
August 6, 2004

Liz Melendez sings the blues sometimes belting it out, sometimes with a delivery soft and husky and plays the electric guitar like she means it. "That fire and attack," she said when mentioning Johnny Winter, one of her influences, "that intensity is what I like to go for."
The Albuquerque native, now in Atlanta, has been soaking herself in the blues since she was a little kid learning rock 'n roll and blues standards on the guitar from her father, Dan Melendez.

She coaxes that "fire and attack" from her Fender Stratocaster, a gift from her dad right after she moved to Atlanta. Around the Southeast she"s often called "the female Stevie Ray Vaughan," and she considers the comparison to her main guitar hero an honor. In a recent interview she said her influences also include Carlos Santana, Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck, and her "favorite bands" list at adds nonblues acts like Ozzy Osbourne and Paul Simon.

"In the blues world, too much rock can be an unwelcome intrusion, but my band has been known to cut loose on some Sabbath, Zeppelin and Iron Maiden when the mood strikes," she says on her Web site. But the blues is her main squeeze.

She remembers, in her Web site bio, the time about 10 years ago that her dad taped an episode of the Austin City Limits television show that featured John Mayall and another guitar player named Coco Montoya. "Austin City Limits was a regular event in our house, and we watched it every Sunday afternoon on PBS, but this one was special, kinda like the first time I heard Freddie King"s "I Wonder Why" or Roy Buchanan"s version of "After Hours.""

Melendez was thrilled to finally meet Montoya, an alumnus of bands with Mayall and Albert Collins, at the 2004 NAMM, International Music Products Association, Summer Session in Nashville. She plans to attend the annual NAMM winter conference in Anaheim, Calif., where she will perform for Dean Markley Strings Inc. But for now she"s stoked to get back to her home state for the Madrid Blues Festival.

"I"m going early because I like spending extra time in New Mexico," she said in late July. "My entire family still lives in Albuquerque."

Melendez moved to Atlanta seven years ago because of opportunities in the music world and because it"s within a few hours" drive of the cities in which she often performs. She has headlined major festivals, including Riverbend Music Festival"s Bessie Smith Strut in Chattanooga (Koko Taylor is the only other female headliner in Riverbend history) and co-headlined the Cape Fear Blues Festival in Wilmington, N.C., and the Blues 2003 Festival in New York. She has shared stages with Bob Margolin, Francine Reed and Dave Maxwell.
On her first album, Mercy (self-produced in 2001), Melendez had a cast of eight, including contributors on Hammond organ, harmonica, clavinet, saxophone and percussion. She"ll play Madrid with a basic blues trio, with bass and drums accompanying her vocal and electric-guitar leads.

"I"ll be doing several songs from my CD and some from the next CD and some favorites I get asked to do, covers of songs by Stevie Ray Vaughan and the Allman Brothers, some good, guitar-driven blues " and maybe a little Coco Montoya," she said.

Melendez"s second album, now in preproduction in Atlanta, she said, will feature her own compositions, as does Mercy, but will be "more edgy and more high-energy than the first CD. I think it will show a lot of growth."

Songwriting, for this blueswoman, is all about being ready when the muse descends. "I get inspired at different times," she said. "I might write 15 songs in a week " some keepers and some not " and then not do another one for a long time. When the flow stops, you wait for the next one, keep your ears open for inspiration.

"Being in New Mexico is very inspirational. Almost all of the songs on the new CD I wrote in New Mexico. It"s a great place to write. I feel like there"s a really great energy there that opens up some things I can"t get to in the din of a big city like Atlanta. New Mexico is a very comforting place to be." She"s also bringing her camera with her to take pictures for the cover of the new CD.

Melendez gives kudos to the New Mexico Jazz Workshop for its years of presenting jazz events and the Madrid Blues Festival, now in its 28th year. "My parents took me to MBF most every year growing up, and I always wondered how cool it would be to play up on that old weathered-wood stage that during the 1920s was once the town baseball field.

"This year I will be headlining the Madrid Blues Festival at the close of the series. This is one of the most exciting bookings of my career simply because once upon a time I was a curly-headed kid covered in dust, climbing on the rocks around the festival site while the music echoed through the surrounding canyons. And now, at this year"s festival, kids will climb on rocks, and the music will echo."

The well-prepared bring a hat, sunscreen, plenty of water and a blanket or lawn chair to the Madrid Blues Festival. No glass containers are permitted on the grounds, but refreshments are available.


By h archuleta (Submitted: 08/09/2004 9:16 am)

I went to the festival this year for the first time and was totally amazed at what Liz Melendez could do with her guitar. I wasn't the only person amazed, several men couldn't lift their jaw off the ground. I recommend to all, go see this young lady, you won't regret it. The sky is the limit and I encourage Ms. Melendez to continue in her path. She'll only get better.

- The Santa Fe New Mexican

"Liz Melendez Band - Mercy"

Blues Revue Magazine
Feb/Mar 2002
BLUES BITES - by Jeff Calvin
Liz Melendez Band
Sure to give Deborah Coleman some competition in the years ahead is the Liz Melendez Band. The songs and arrangements on Mercy (self-release) mine the same groove; meaty modern blues with tough-yet tender singing and effective soloing. Out of Duluth, Georgia, Melendez is an accomplished guitarist with a nice rhythm touch; she's also got an appealing voice. With those tools and some simple arranging touches, she and her band manage to make straight-on shuffles like "Don't Wanna Leave You Alone" and the Jimmy Reed cop "I Never Do" fresh and interesting. More unusual tracks, like the tricky instrumental "Cisco's Revenge," will keep you on your toes. One to watch.
- Blues Revue Magazine

"Liz Melendez Band"

MetroPulse-Knoxville, TN
Jan. 16, 2002
Performance Review by Jesse Fox Mayshark
I have a friend who once told a young Alison Krauss that she was a terrific fiddle player. And then, for some reason, he added, "I mean, for a girl..." Alison walked away in disgust and my friend felt really, really stupid. He meant it as a compliment, but it came out all wrong. The fact is, string-instrument virtuosity is still a primarily male trait; women, by nature or nurture or just plain old male chauvinism, whether in bluegrass or blues, tend to get confined to rhythm playing. Liz Melendez, an Atlanta-based blues singer and guitarist, probably hears things like that all the time. Because while her throaty vocals and sharp, moody songwriting would be enough to distinguish her, she really can play the hell out of an electric guitar. Even more than her few female blues-guitar peers, Melendez combines grinding passion with fiery precision. The most obvious influence on her playing is Stevie Ray Vaughn, and it's a mantle she carries ably (she also carries off some muy convincing Santana-flavored Latin playing). She and her band treated Knoxvillians to a reportedly storming show on New Year's Eve at Sassy Ann's, and now she's back for a double header. From 5-8 p.m., Melendez is the feature of the week at the Knoxville Museum of Art's "Alive After Five" series. Then, from 9 p.m.-1 a.m., she'll be back at Sassy Ann's. Catch her at one or both stops. She rocks and swaggers and moans and sizzles as well as any current blues player-of any gender.
- MetroPulse Knoxville, TN


2001; LP

"Sweet Southern Soul"
2007; LP
King Mojo Records



The Mission
Liz Melendez is, quite simply, one of the most exciting and promising new artists on the music horizon today. Her guitar prowess alone puts her far ahead of her contemporaries. Comparisons to Carlos Santana and Stevie Ray Vaughn are not uncommon. Not content to master the electric guitar, Melendez prides herself on being a “triple threat.” “Many guitarists can write songs, many songwriters can sing, and many singers can play a little. What is most unique about me is that I can do all three.” And she does “all three” exceedingly well. Her vocal style harkens back to Janis Joplin, though the compliment, “She reminds me of Bonnie Raitt,” has been overheard on more than one occasion.

Born and raised in the South Valley of Albuquerque, New Mexico, Liz moved to Atlanta, Georgia in the late 1990s, lured by it’s vibe and location. “The south is home to so much of the music I love. It’s the heart of the new south and a great place to live. Plus it’s location makes touring the southeast easy.”

A formidable artist, she soon found herself in high demand as a lead and rhythm guitarist, songwriter, and vocalist. However, the desire to express her unique musical “voice” became too strong. Not content with the background, Liz released 2, all-original, full-length recordings. “Mercy” in 2001 and “Sweet Southern Soul” in 2007. Both have been praised for the quality and substance of the songwriting and the masterful guitar work. Nearly every track has become a fan favorite, with “Milagro”, “Mercy”, and “Justice County” most often requested. Worldwide radio air play and accolades in national and international publications soon followed.

An intense, dynamic performer, Melendez has garnered a substantial following touring the United States and internationally. She has headlined major festivals, notably the Chattanooga Riverbend Festival’s Bessie Smith Strut before an audience of over 70,000. Only one other female artist, Koko Taylor, has headlined the festival in its history. She has co-headlined the Cape Fear Blues Festival in Wilmington, N.C. and the Blues 2003 Festival in New York. She has opened for artists Nappy Roots and has performed on-stage with such notables as Bob Margolin, Henry Butler, Francine Reed, Hubert Sumlin, E.G. Kight, Chris Duarte and Candy Kane.

The 70s At 120 Decibels
Growing up, Liz was taught and heavily influenced by her father, Dan Melendez. She proudly admits he “lovingly blasted at deafening volume the great album rock and blues of the 70s during my tender, formative years.” She now dedicates all her musical pursuits to her father who, sadly, passed away shortly after the release of “Mercy”.

When a then five-year-old Liz first heard the guitar introduction to Freddie King’s “I Wonder Why”, her fascination with all things electric guitar began. “My father started teaching me rock and roll and blues standards like “Johnny B. Goode”, and “Hideaway”. He challenged me early on to learn Bill Doggett’s “Honky Tonk”, which was pretty tough for a little kid.” Much of what her father taught made no sense to young Liz, but he would reassure her “as if he could see into my future.” “This will all mean something very important to you someday,” he would say. He was right. By the time Liz discovered the “Brit-Blues” of Led Zeppelin, the hard rock of Black Sabbath, and the “out-of-his-body” Latin grooves of Carlos Santana, she found learning their songs coming naturally. The techniques and fundamentals Liz drilled had equipped her to tackle just about any musical style, techniques that can still be heard in music today.

“Probably more important to me than the guitar methods themselves,” she emphasizes, “my father taught me the fundamentals of what it means to be a great musician. He was an exceedingly intellectual man and he drove home his philosophy that becoming a great rhythm guitarist was an essential part of being a great lead guitarist and that the importance of learning to be a good support player as part of an ensemble was paramount in my pursuit of becoming a great musician.”

It was, however, the “Texas-shredding” of Stevie Ray Vaughn that changed her life. “Only a few artists change the way an instrument is played by all who come after them. I had never heard anything like Stevie Ray before and have not heard anyone like him since. My own homage and tribute (shows) have less to do with covering his songs and everything to do with expressing the way listening to his music makes me feel. It’s a pure desire to honor his contribution to my musical life.” Liz performs an amazing Stevie Ray Vaughn tribute show several times a year.

Her father’s support and wisdom are the basis for much of Liz’s conviction today. “He always told me, ‘Liz, don’t ever be afraid to get on stage with anyone. Don’t ever be intimidated. You can hang with anybody out there.’ He was always saying things like that,” she remembers. “One afternoon, he was lis