New Jersey Stage
New Jersey Stage on social media

Did you know NJ Stage offers FREE Event Listings? Nearly 100,000 listings were viewed in January. Be sure to add your events to our calendar and get your shows noticed!

Makin Waves Record of the Week: Karen Mansfield’s ‘Thistle & Boon’

originally published: 02/08/2018

Makin Waves Record of the Week: Karen Mansfield’s ‘Thistle & Boon’Karen Mansfield’s full-length debut album, “Thistle & Boon,” drops Feb. 14, but Makin Waves has a review now. 

Jersey Shore singer-songwriter Karen Mansfield and I go back further than she probably would want me to tell you, but suffice to say, I was one of the first music journalists to write about her when she first appeared on the scene. I gave a very positive review of a demo filled with potential. But rather than pursue the heartbreak of the fickle music industry, Mansfield opted instead for motherhood and wisely focused on her daughter rather than song craft. 

Now that the lass has grown, Mansfield has returned to the music scene with a satchel of songs so worth hearing, she has taken the DIY route to get them heard. Her soon-to-be-released, fan-financed full-length debut, “Thistle & Boon,” follows a 2014 self-titled six-song EP. The new 10-song collection demonstrates a better grasp of the recording studio at the able hands of acclaimed Asbury Park-based Joss Stone producer Steve Greenwell. The album brings to mind such artists as Joan Baez, Chrissie Hynde, Stevie Nicks, Patti Smith, Lucinda Williams and Dusty Springfield. I believe their fans will enjoy “Thistle & Boon,” particularly the standout “There Was a Girl,” which was released as a single in November to scads of airplay and accolades.

Another fine track is the haunting leadoff “Lover for the Ride,” which sounds like a cross between themes to a James Bond film and a spaghetti western. Its splendidly spooky atmospherics should be shopped immediately to the next David Lynch project.

Also impressive are “Break Away,” a beautiful breakup song from the standpoint of understanding and best wishes rather than regret and remorse, and the surf-tinged “Gone,” a lyrical strong suit that expresses pain about a good relationship that doesn’t go bad, so much as vanishes. With a sad, weary vocal, Mansfield shares vivid imagery: “And as the leaves kiss up to the autumn wind, our love is gone.” 

I also like the seemingly fun, sunny “Me and Leslie,” a true story about a youthful cross-country adventure that Mansfield managed to whittle down to a four-minute pop tune for a friend who lamented that she never saw her name in the title of a song. The tune sounds light and bright, but just like the similar tale of the coinciding 1991 film “Thelma & Louise,” complicated relationships cast dark and devastating shadows. 

Near the end of “Thistle & Boon,” Mansfield has contagious fun with “Ain’t ½ Bad,” a down ‘n’ dirty track that snakes around love’s imperfections and failures; “New Favorite Thing,” ’60s-inspired garage-pop that is a contender for Little Steven’s “Coolest Song in the World,” and the Lou Reed-like garage rocker, “Don’t Do.” While Mansfield is better at revealing love’s pain and sorrow, she closes “Thistle & Boon” with the infectious joy of “You Make Me Happy,” featuring the strong chorus: “…Like a glittering sun in my heart that makes my life glow. You make me happy with a feeling sublime. I’m alright wherever I go.” 

Soliciting investors through, Mansfeld assembled an all-star studio band, including Spin Doctors drummer Aaron Comess, Michael Jackson/Prince bassist Jack Daley, Splintered Sunlight keyboardist Billy Siegel and esteemed singer-songwriter Emily Grove on backing vocals. But the other stars of the record are Peter Gabriel guitarist Jimmy Farkas and Mark Hudson guitarist Jay Shepard, who play tastefully on Mansfield’s mellow material, yet rock out on her sassier tracks. Also playing rhythm guitar via an incentive on is Shore Regional High School classmate Michael Sullivan on “There Was a Girl.” 

Whether rocking out like she’s still in her dad’s garage or pursuing a more introspective folk-rock approach, Mansfield has something to say, and she says it well with a smoky, soulful, world-weary but sometimes sweet and pretty vox. She gets a lot of help from Greenwell, yet another mighty Asbury talent behind the boards, who seamlessly weaves the eclectic nature of Mansfield’s tunes into a tight, tasty, cohesive collection. His other credits range from rap philosophers Arrested Development to country diva Emily West. 

Given the depth of the talent on “Thistle & Boon,” it will be interesting to see who Mansfield taps to back her at the Makin Waves 30th Anniversary Party on March 31 at the Wonder Bar. Emceed by Radio Jersey’s Lee Mrowicki, the celebration also will include our mutual friends Williams Honor, Colossal Street Jam, and Tom Kanach, plus my friends The Vansaders, Nalani & Sarina, Solace, Paul Whistler, Sutton Thomas, Mike Brody vs. the People, and Mike Daly & the Planets. Highlights also will include a free commemorative T-shirt to the first 100 guests, free stickers and anniversary cake for all, a free Wheel of Chance for sponsor prizes and drink specials. Partial proceeds will go to Asbury Park Music Foundation and Boys & Girls Club of Monmouth County.



Makin Waves Record of the Week: Karen Mansfield’s ‘Thistle & Boon’


Bob Makin is the reporter for and a former managing editor of The Aquarian Weekly, which launched this column in 1988. Contact him at And like Makin Waves at

For more by this author, click here

White Eagle Hall Presents Mason Jennings
(JERSEY CITY, NJ) -- White Eagle Hall presents Mason Jennings on Sunday, September 16 at 7:00pm. Jennings is touring in support of his latest album, Songs From When We Met, which was released earlier this year.  Tickets are $20.
Pioneer Productions Presents Wendy-Lane Bailey Women's Work
(DENVILLE, NJ) -- Pioneer Productions kicks off its new Living Room Series with Women’s Work - an evening of songs by female songwriters on September 16 at 6:00pm at the Arthur Murray Studios in Denville. Conceived and performed by singer/storyteller Wendy-Lane Bailey & composer/pianist Michele Brourman it has a funny, sometimes challenging but always defiantly feminine viewpoint that brings the worlds of Broadway, pop, and country together in one show.
Stone Pony To Honor Butch Pielka
(ASBURY PARK, NJ) -- A special day of music to honor the legacy of the original Stone Pony co-owner and manager, Robert “Butch” Pielka, will be held Sunday, October 7, from 2:00 to 9:00pm at the Stone Pony in Asbury Park. The lineup includes reunions of Cats on a Smooth Surface and The Shakes, and Lance Larson.  More names are expected to be added.
Victor Wainwright & The Train To Perform At Lizzie Rose Music Room
(TUCKERTON, NJ) -- The Lizzie Rose Music Room presents Victor Wainwright and the Train on Wednesday, August 22 at 7:30pm. A 3 time BMA Piano Award winner,  BB KING Entertainer of the Year Award Winner, and Band of the Year Award winner, Victor Wainwright is at the top of his game right now.  The band is touring in support of their latest record, The Train, on Ruf Records. Tickets are 30 in advance and $35 at the door.
State Theatre presents Lost 80's Live
(NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ) -- State Theatre New Jersey presents Lost 80’s Live on Saturday, September 20, 2018 at 8:00pm. The Lost 80’s line-up features some of the most iconic bands from the 1980s including A Flock of Seagulls; Wang Chung; Bow Wow Wow; Farrington and Mann, Original Vocalists of When in Rome UK; Naked Eyes; and Animotion. Tickets range from $48-$98.

Let’s Hang On’s Tribute to Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons LIVE! at The Strand
Q: So what do four guys from Pennsylvania, Texas, Tennessee, and Massachusetts — and all currently based out of Florida — have in common with four guys from “Joisey” this summery August 3, 2018 evening at the Strand Theater in Lakewood, NJ?
80's Tribute Band Almost Journey Rocks iPlay America
I never in a million years would have thought about iPlay America in Freehold as being an event venue. To me, it's a place to ride bumper cars, have kids' birthday parties and play video games. Never been there.
The Great Rock N Roll Time Machine LIVE! at Toms River’s Grunin Center
As we make our way inside the Grunin Center of the Arts located on the campus of Ocean County College in Toms River, NJ, this Saturday, July 28, 2018, we see music lovers of all ages. Some of them are wearing street clothes but some are decked out in outfits from the 1970s and ’80s for tonight’s concert by the ’70s and ’80s tribute band, The Great Rock N Roll Time Machine.
Classical Guitarists Alex and Wesley Park LIVE! at The Great Auditorium
The bucolic seashore town of Ocean Grove, NJ is a place designed for quiet reflection and spiritual renewal. An artist sketches in the lush green park off Pilgrim Pathway. Still others read or meditate in the heart of this picturesque village which features gingerbread houses and colorful gardens, all just steps away from the fresh salt air wafting off the blue Atlantic Ocean.
“Rock and Roll Icons!” Hippiefest LIVE! at BergenPAC
A light summer rain is falling outside Englewood, NJ’s BergenPAC this Wednesday July 25, 2018, as music lovers decked out in peace signs, tie-dyed shirts, and bell-bottomed jeans arrive for tonight’s Hippiefest concert event starring Vanilla Fudge, Rick Derringer, Mitch Ryder, and Badfingers’ Joey Molland.

Event calendar
Tuesday, Aug 21, 2018


MEG BERRY / ROB CONNOLLY @ The Saint, Asbury Park - 7:00pm

Quiksilver & Sea.Hear.Now present: Fishbone @ House of Independents, Asbury Park - 7:00pm

The Pierce Sessions @ Pierce Memorial Presbyterian Church, Farmingdale - 7:30pm

Agent Orange @ The Stanhope House, Stanhope - 6:00pm


Saturday Night Fever @ Surflight Theatre, Beach Haven - 2:00pm and 8:00pm

The Lion In Winter @ Cape May Stage, Cape May - 8:00pm

View all events


For more on our awards, click here

New Jersey Stage © 2018 by Wine Time Media, LLC | PO Box 140, Spring Lake, NJ 07762 (732) 280-7625 |

Images used on this site have been sent to us from publicists, artists, and PR firms.
If there is a problem with the rights to any image, please contact us and we will look into the matter.