Darwin’s Burgers & Blues is open again! Let everyone say “AMEN!”. With that in mind the Gospel Lunch hosted by Mandi Strachota was the perfect show for me to see at the new location. There are many wonderful things to say about the new Darwin’s Burgers & Blues location in Sandy Springs but the one major improvement that will stand out for most is AMPLE PARKING! Secondly, I’ll add that two important things haven’t changed. The burgers are still awesome and the music is what we have all grown to love.
Mandi Strachota is a vocal powerhouse that always puts on a cross genre set that appeals to a wide range of music lovers. This was no exception as I sat back and enjoyed the Gospel Lunch at Darwin’s Burgers & Blues. The gospel and inspirational set list included:classic American spirituals like “Will The Circle Be Unbroken” and “Glory, Glory (Lay My Burdens Down)”; social and political awareness in songs like “People Get Ready” by Curtis Mayfield and The Impressions; casting of negativity and aggression with “Down By The Riverside”; and contemporary gospel on “Shackles” by Mary, Mary; and event the exploration of reincarnation with “Higher Ground” by Stevie Wonder. Accompanying Mandi Strachota this week there was Jon Schwenke on bass, Landon Jordan on guitar, Sylvester Ogletree on drums and Chad Mason on keyboards. I definitely felt uplifted after hearing the Gospel Lunch and look forward to many more uplifting days and nights of music at Darwin’s Burgers & Blues.
Pay attention to the Darwin’s Burgers & Blues schedule of events for details on the Tuesday through Sunday lineup.
Interview with Mandi Strachota
Why a Gospel Lunch for your show at Darwin’s?
I really enjoy performing gospel music. It seems to fit my voice well, plus it gives me the opportunity to combine my soul and country roots. I’ve been playing the gospel hour at the Chicken Raid for many years, and more recently I’ve been performing with Mudcat backing up some awesome artists at gospel shows, including Otis Redding III, Beverly ‘Guitar’ Watkins, and The Blind Boys of Alabama. I’ve written a couple gospel songs as well. The thing I’ve noticed is that people don’t seem to care that the music isn’t secular; they simply care that it makes them feel good. And isn’t that what this is about? I’m all about spreading some love.
What are your thoughts on the new Darwin’s location?
I am excited about the new location. I am really hoping the traffic around there brings some new people out and gets people more interested in live music. Lindsay and Aiken have worked their butts off to get this thing off the ground and are truly dedicated to the music scene in this city. It still has the same feel as the old location, but is a little bigger with A LOT more parking. There are still a few kinks to work out, but it has already been pretty successful. You also might find one of your favorite musicians behind the bar
Tell me about the great musicians that shared the stage with you for the Gospel Lunch?
I often brag about the musicians with whom I share the stage being my friends, and this is no exception!
Sylvester Ogletree played drums with us with the Larry Griffith Band a few years back. I think he only played with us once or twice, but I kept him on my ‘friends’ list and because we interacted so well on Facebook I started calling him when I got my own band together and we’ve been playing together ever since. It was very important to me that the soul I bring out front didn’t get lost to a boxy rhythm section, and he has far exceeded my expectations.
Jon Schwenke was one of the first bassists I met in Atlanta. He was usually in the band when I sat in with Jason Pastras or Andrew Black. It was great for me because I was going to all these blues jams and I didn’t really know any blues. But they knew Stevie Wonder and Aretha Franklin. He knows all kinds of soul music and his backup vocals are so tasty.
I’ve been super blessed lately to get to play with Chad Mason more often, both with Mudcat and Wasted Potential. I have forgotten to sing more than once because I was too busy watching him on keys with my jaw open. He seriously puts the stank on it. Funky funky funky. And don’t miss out on catching some of his facial expressions. I dare anyone to have more fun on stage than Chad.
Landon freaking Jordan. If you don’t already know, you’re about to find out. You know the expression about ‘that guy has more soul in his little finger…’? That’s Landon. I honestly wasn’t sure if I even liked electric guitar before I heard him play. He sounds like he should be playing on an Isley Brothers album. But guess whose album he did play on?!!! That’s right, my new album coming out in July! I don’t brag on myself often, but this project is awesome. And made more awesome by players like Landon. Add to that he’s a giant sweetheart and a very dear friend? Sounds like the package to me
What was the first album that you added to your personal music library?
My first album is tough to say… that was a long time ago!!! But rest assured it was most definitely vinyl. My first 45 that I remember was Peabo Bryson ‘If Ever You’re In My Arms Again.’ My first full length was probably either Stevie Wonder ‘Songs In the Key of Life’ or Madonna Self-Titled. But I mainly remember having to reprint the lyrics for ‘Thriller’ because I WORE IT OUT.
What was your most recent addition to your personal music library?
My most recent addition was Robby Hecht ‘Last of the Long Days,’ a friend of mine living in Nashville. Almost all of my most recent purchases have been local artists or people I know personally. I honestly can’t remember the last purchase of a ‘major’ artist, but if I had to guess it was probably Bruno Mars. I adore that kid.
What was your first live music experience?
My first live music experience was Air Supply. I was too little to remember what venue (in Milwaukee somewhere), but I do remember some women giving them roses while swooning and that our car was broken into during the show. They stole my mom’s camera and the fuzz buster (remember those?) but didn’t take the cord, which I imagine back then would have been a big deal. We had to ride home with three in the back because of the broken glass. Second concert was Neil Diamond at the Marcus Amphitheater. I saw many shows there growing up, most of the time during Summerfest. I saw him again probably about ten years ago down at Phillips with a new appreciation. His acoustic set was fantastic! Also, I’ve probably seen Lenny Kravitz ten times. I used to be obsessed.
If you could cover one album in your music library which would it be?
If I could cover an entire album? Probably ‘Innervisions’ by Stevie Wonder. I did a Stevie compilation for a friend recently and found I included most of that album. Or George Michael ‘Listen Without Prejudice’ or Sheryl Crow ‘Tuesday Night Music Club.’ I’m all over the board on this one! There’s so much good music out there! And if I’m being honest, I already cover five of the tracks on India Arie’s ‘Acoustic Soul.’
What artist do you wish more people had in their music library?
First and foremost Mandi Strachota!!! And all of my friends, especially Mudcat and Katie Martin. But as far as ‘popular’ artists go I would probably say Beth Hart. I don’t understand why more people don’t know about her or why I didn’t for so long. She is so powerful. And then Ozomatli. People should be dancing their butts off to that stuff. They are so fun. Side note I found them when they opened for one of my many Lenny Kravitz concerts. They had around 20 people on stage. I was immediately sold.
Where can we find your music online?
My music is available on iTunes, Spotify, and CD Baby. Search my name (there is only one Mandi Strachota!) or go to https://www.cdbaby.com/Artist/MandiStrachota or https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/fly. By the time ‘Unleashed’ comes out in July, all merchandise will be available for purchase on my website www.mandistrachota.com. You can also find the links through my website.
You use the #SupportLocalMusic hashtags which is one that we use also at Libro Musica. Why is this so important to you?
The older I get, the more important I find it is to support as many local things as possible, for a couple reasons. Supporting local businesses and people is often reciprocal, even if not directly so. I find that the more things I support in my community, the more the community gives back to me. So kind of like karma? And let’s face it, bigger businesses don’t care about little ol’ me. But mostly I support local music because so many of these people I consider to be genuine friends. Knowing them and loving them makes me enjoy their art so much more. Plus, we all have to do our part to support the local community to make sure it doesn’t fade away. Where would that leave us? And why would I need to support someone from far away at outrageous costs when the people here are so amazing? We have so much talent in this city, and I feel like more people should know about it.