“For two years or thereabouts,” Mandell says, "I taught songwriting at two colleges and a women’s prison. I don’t know why exactly I was drawn to that work. But I had a family member who had been in prison in the 1940s. He wasn’t around when I was growing up, but that sort of fascinated me and I was always curious about what kind of person disappears and what kind of person commits crimes — what are they thinking?”
Working with the inmates provided many epiphanies for her as a person, and proved fertile for her as an artist, as captured in the 11 songs on this album, her 11th studio release. In many ways it’s the culmination and fulfillment of all the strengths as a writer and performer going back to her start under the tutelage of Chuck E. Weiss, Tom Waits and other top chroniclers of people in the shadows. The result is a set of compellingly personalized portraits and vignettes, probing looks into the lives and minds, the regrets and guilts and hopes of those she met, but ultimately also of her. And us.