Wednesday, April 16, 2014 · 12:53 a.m.

The ballad of Mandi Rae

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It’s true. I’m biased when it comes to Birmingham-based singer-songwriter Mandi Rae.

We’ve been friends since 2004 and remained close—with a few hiccups—throughout the years. Fond memories include road trips to concerts; late-night jam sessions; and a particular dinner in Charlotte, N.C., filled with paranoia and laughter.

She was my first introduction to The Avett Brothers, The Everybodyfields and a host of other regional Americana talents.

Mandi Rae will perform at a showcase this Friday, Dec. 27 with Jim Avett (the patriarch of the Avett family) and Chattanooga’s The Goodbye Girls (Amber Fults and Hayley Graham).

The show is at 8 p.m. at Barking Legs Theater. Tickets are $12 in advance.

Click here for tickets.

The past five or so years have been about change for Mandi Rae and family. 

I distinctly remember a late-night phone call after she found out she was pregnant with her first daughter and watching her Facebook timeline with sadness last year as her husband, Pasco, lost his battle with a rare disease.

In the weeks after his death, she and her daughters went on an extended tour through the southeastern portion of the country. 

This included a stunning performance as a part of Music City Roots just three weeks after Pasco's death. 

Watch Mandi Rae and her band perform "Mystery on the Mountain" during the Music City Roots broadcast.

Now, a year later, Mandi Rae is beginning to pick up the pieces of her life. She’s moved back to Birmingham with her two daughters and has found that her departure has, in a weird way, helped her pick up gigs.

"I think people in Birmingham thought I was doing something really cool with music," she said. "It just seemed like I went out to Denver and made it; and now, people are like, 'Let’s book Mandi Rae,' so I’m just going to run with it. I think that happens a lot, where people go away from where they’re from and return. It does some good."

Her music has evolved from her early days as a musician. Going from a primarily folk artist, Mandi Rae’s new band has more of an alternative-country feel to it, which she describes as "Southern-indie rock."

She said her audience might expect a dark, depressed sound considering recent events, but the opposite is true.

"People want to hear about struggle, something they can relate to," she said. "But I think I want to project positivity ... I’m listening to weird stuff that I’ve never listened to before. My music still has Mandi Rae in it, but it is sounding different."

Mandi Rae will bring a full band to perform, and fans can expect a lot of new material mixed in with old favorites like "Gettaway," "Leave Them Boys Alone" and "Mystery on the Mountain."

Some of the newer material—including a song referencing a "Twilight Zone" episode called "Nightmare at 10,000 Feet"—can be heard in a rough format on her website.

The song is called "On My Mind" and features the line "I’ve got a gremlin on the wing of my aeroplane." Another new song she’s penned is titled "I Don’t Know What I’m Doing Here."

"That song touches on a feeling that I’ve had that I have no f#&$@^! clue where I am," she said. "It’s kind of a play on words, like I don’t know what I’m doing here, but I also don’t know what I’m doing here. That probably is one of the better ways to describe where I am right now."

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