New Jersey Stage
New Jersey Stage on social media

BIG NEWS! Here's the latest Issue of NJ Stage Magazine -- Click here

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

Jann Klose and The Voice's Josett Diaz To Perform At Ethical Brew To Benefit A Cause Close To Home
(TEANECK, NJ) -- On Saturday, December 8th, singer-songwriter and recording artist, Jann Klose will perform at Ethical Brew on behalf of Mind-Builders Creative Arts Center, a community arts and cultural center for children and teens located in Bronx, New York.  Doors open at 7:30, show begins at 8:00pm.
Kenny Chesney To Perform At Hard Rock Hotel & Casino
(ATLANTIC CITY, NJ) -- Focusing on smaller venues and markets not directly impacted by his massive stadium tours, Kenny Chesney sought to make his Songs for the Saints 2019 Tour mirror the intimacy of its namesake album. Inspired by the resilience of the people around him, Chesney doubles down on the human connection for his 2019 tour by seeking those members of No Shoes Nation who have spent the past decade and a half making the trip to stadium markets for what is now a summer tradition. On Saturday, May 11, 2019 he brings the tour to Hard Rock Live at Etess Arena in Atlantic City, NJ.
State Theatre New Jersey presents Cirque Dreams Holidaze
(NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ) -- State Theatre New Jersey presents Cirque Dreams Holidaze on Friday, December 7 at 8:00pm, Saturday, December 8 at 2:00pm and 8:00pm, and Sunday, December 9 at 2:00pm. Cirque Dreams Holidaze, a division of Cirque du Soleil, has become a critically acclaimed, state-of-the-art Broadway musical, and a fun-filled, holiday family show. Tickets range from $35-$98.
NJSO presents 2019 Winter Festival, 'Music Speaks'
(NEWARK, NJ) -- A trio of renowned guest artists with distinct musical voices—pianists Emanuel Ax and Daniil Trifonov and soprano Dawn Upshaw—headline the NJSO’s Winter Festival, “Music Speaks,” in January 2019. The Orchestra’s signature artistic event takes place across three weekends, January 10–27, in six New Jersey venues.
RVCC Chorale to Perform Annual Holiday Concert on December 8th
(BRANCHBURG, NJ) --The RVCC Chorale will give its annual holiday concert on Saturday, December 8 at 8:00pm in the Welpe Theatre at Raritan Valley Community College’s Branchburg campus. The program will feature Johann Sebastian Bach’s cantata, Das Neugeborne Kindelein, as well as a cappella pieces from by Sergei Rachmaninov, Zoltan Kodaly and Giuseppe Verdi. The program also will include an audience singalong of traditional carols.

"Great Music!" Tavares and Harold Melvin's Blue Notes LIVE! at the Strand Theater
The music of the 1970s is alive and well this Saturday, November 3, 2018 at Lakewood, NJ’s Strand Theater with a concert by the ’70’s R&B and soul groups Tavares and Harold Melvin’s Blue Notes!
"An Amazing Musical Genius!" Brian Wilson LIVE! at the State Theatre
In the music room in the back of our house, there’s an electric bass and amp, two acoustic guitars, a microphone and PA speakers, several pieces of music recording equipment, and a bookcase filled with books on music, not to mention a slew of assorted music memorabilia. But, perhaps, one of the most highly prized items in the room is hanging directly above the piano next to the college music diplomas.
Jazz Saxophonist Don Braden LIVE! at Toms River’s Grunin Center
It’s a breezy day for a new installment of the Jazz On a Sunday Afternoon concert series at Toms River, NJ’s Grunin Center of the Arts this Sunday Oct. 27, 2018 afternoon. Today’s special 3pm performance is entitled Earth, Wind and Wonder and is presented by jazz saxophonist Don Braden.
Charlie Thomas’ Drifters, The Classics IV, and The Brooklyn Bridge LIVE! at The Strand, Lakewood
The stars are out this Saturday Oct. 26, 2018 evening in Lakewood, NJ for a “Golden Oldies” concert featuring Charlie Thomas’ Drifters, The Classics IV, and The Brooklyn Bridge!
PODCAST: Grammy Winner Terri Lyne Carrington At TD James Moody Jazz Festival
Drummer, leader, and composer Terri Lyne Carrington made history as the first woman to win a Grammy for Best Instrumental Jazz for her album “Money Jungle: Provocative in Blue.” Now, she brings her interpretation of Duke Ellington’s “Money Jungle” to the TD James Moody Jazz Festival at NJPAC on November 11, 2018, as part of a program called “Jazz Vinyl Revisited.” Producer Susan Wallner talks to Carrington about her connections to the jazz greats Clark Terry and Max Roach; her newest project, the Berklee Institute of Jazz and Gender Justice; and why she thinks drummers make natural leaders.

Event calendar
Saturday, Nov 17, 2018


THE GAY BLADES @ The Saint, Asbury Park - 7:30pm

HERMAN'S HERMITS STARRING PETER NOONE & THE BUCKINGHAMS @ Bergen Performing Arts Center (bergenPAC), Englewood - 8:00pm

Nelson Riveros Trio: “The Latin Side of Wes Montgomery” @ Englewood Public Library, Englewood - 7:00pm

Hawaiian Music and Hula @ 1867 Sanctuary at Ewing, Ewing - 8:00pm

Pop 2000 Tour @ iPlay America, Freehold - 7:00pm

THE MACHINE PERFORMS PINK FLOYD @ The Strand Theater, Lakewood - 8:00pm


Todd Barry at SOPAC @ South Orange Performing Arts Center (SOPAC), South Orange - 8:00pm

Swamp Boogie Trio @ Lizzie Rose Music Room, Tuckerton - 7:30pm


Annie @ Broad Street United Methodist Church, Burlington - 8:00pm

An Actor's Carol @ Cape May Stage, Cape May - 3:00pm and 7:30pm

Annie @ Axelrod Performing Arts Center, Deal Park - 2:00pm and 8:00pm

Apples In Winter @ Centenary Stage Company - Kutz Theater of the Lackland Center, Hackettstown - 8:00pm

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat @ The Levoy Theatre, Millville - 8:00pm

Billy Bishop Goes to War @ Bickford Theatre at the Morris Museum, Morristown - 2:00pm

Kiss Me Kate @ Broadway Theatre of Pitman, Pitman - 2:00pm and 8:00pm

Phoenix Productions Presents: The Hunchback of Notre Dame @ Count Basie Center For The Arts, Red Bank - 8:00pm

Enchanted April @ The Summit Playhouse, Summit - 8:00pm

Heathers, The Musical High School Edition @ Pebble Players, Oakes Center, Summit - 7:30pm

Junie B. Jones The Musical at Black Box PAC @ Black Box PAC, Teaneck - 11:00am

Into the Woods @ Studio Playhouse Upper Montclair, Upper Montclair - 8:00pm

The Drowsy Chaperone @ Lauren K. Woods Theatre at Monmouth University, West Long Branch - 8:00pm


Todd Barry at SOPAC @ South Orange Performing Arts Center (SOPAC), South Orange - 8:00pm


BALLET FOLKLORICO DE MEXICO @ Mayo Performing Arts Center (MPAC), Morristown - 8:00pm


ROALD DAHL’S WILLY WONKA JR. @ Ridgewood Ave School Theater, Glen Ridge - 1:00pm and 7:00pm


Mainebiz Health Care Forum @ Mainebiz Health Care Forum, Newyork - 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.