Lynn Miles is one of the best songwriters of her generation. With a sharply written image and a quick metaphor, she manages to nail the deeply complicated workings of the heart in every song she writes. Mix in a voice so distinctly her own - plaintive yet beguiling, Nashville cool yet heartbreakingly folk - she treads the territory once owned by Joni Mitchell by reinventing it in her own contemporary language and style.
No one holds a claim on the land where hearts ache and break like Lynn Miles. Now I Understand is achingly beautiful, haunting and pure:
You're Not Coming Back describes the empty landscape where the lover spurned is left on her own, when "the tom cats and the babies/ are howling at the moon/ the days are too short/ and the nights come too soon...." This is a familiar place to all those who have loved, but have eventually lost out to whoever or whatever came next. Miles' voice reaches down deep and soars above her delicate self-accompaniment on piano. The song is underplayed and unadorned - just Miles and keyboards - all to the right effect.
Switching gears from the land of love, Miles country rocks in the title song Unravel. Driven by a great percussive beat and aided by a wall of hand claps, Miles observes the world around her with a keen, unerring eye:
Brave Parade is one of the CD's best cuts. It celebrates the plight of the underdog, fighting for his or her place in the world. Miles' signature vocals, both vulnerably pretty, yet clear and strong, rise above lyrics that read like poetry. Miles skillfully plays out the melody on piano while Ian Lefeuvre plays a gentle backing solo on electric guitar.
Black Flowers is the perfect traditional country folk song. It's a tragic tune about the toll the coal mining industry takes on the workers who go down into the mines. Death, in the form of black flowers, is everywhere. It's a moving elegy to the people who have lived and died mining coal in the American South.
It all comes together in the final cut, Surrender Dorothy, where Miles uses the metaphors of the great Wizard of Oz to call up the limits of the world around us, and the search for the home in all of us - a place where we won't "grow tired of being alone."
You know, as a critic and reviewer who listens to a lot of music, it isn't often that you come across true greatness - someone who really knocks you off your feet. Lynn Miles has one of those voices that takes you places you've never been. And by singing the songs she writes, you feel like she's opened all of the hidden places in your heart where you've come undone, and back again. Lynn Miles is truly a gift. Open your heart and your ears and take a listen. You will never forget her.
All songs written by Lynn Miles
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