Lynn Miles - Night in a Strange Town

Night in a Strange Town

Lynn Miles

Philo 11671-1215-2

Philo/Rounder Records
One Camp Street
Cambridge, MA 02140
A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
by Roberta B. Schwartz
(rschwartz@oeb.harvard.edu)

Lynn Miles is one of a handful of truly great singer/songwriters to come out of the contemporary acoustic-music scene. She has a distinctive alto voice that easily stretches itself into the higher ranges. And she writes songs that are not unlike photographs - they quickly and accurately capture a moment or an emotion that is difficult to describe. She is so gifted that her songs unfold like the petals of a flower, revealing the mystery deep inside.

Lynn Miles is also Canadian, and like fellow countrymen Joni Mitchell and Gordon Lightfoot, her musical catalog is filled with songs that will stay with us for a very long time.

Night in a Strange Town is Miles' second release on Rounder Records' Philo label. I reviewed her earlier release, Slightly Haunted, and can't remember being so moved by another acoustic debut recording. But Night fulfills the promise of great things to come, and more. Both recordings are deeply personal. And both are filled with subjects closely observed and deeply felt. Night in a Strange Town expands Miles' body of work and gives us more songs that are hard to forget. Her melodies linger long after they have been heard.

The One You're Waiting For is just one of those unforgettable tunes. With Tal Bergman banging out the beat on drums and varied percussion, Miles' voice soars and hits that spot where we all hurt the hurt left by the one who got away. It is particularly poignant and melodic.

Yeah Yeah describes the dissolution of a relationship with such accuracy that we understand the singer's pain and loss:

I think about your soul
I think about your touch
I think that you were wrong
When you said that we love too much
I know it now
This is our fate
Even if we signed a truce today I know it would be too late
Yeah Yeah.

Beautiful Night is one of the loveliest songs I've ever heard. Miles and her guitar are center stage with only a subtle hint of accompaniment on piano and pedal steel. It tells how the beauty of the stars and the night can remove us from life's more difficult transitions, even if it is only for a moment.

In a near-perfect recording like this it's difficult to choose a favorite cut. But if forced, I think I'd have to choose Map of My Heart. There are some songs, when you hear the singer's voice cut to the core of the emotion expressed, you cannot help but feel moved:

And I know I hurt you bad
And this is not enough
And that hearts are usually red
And the edges are too rough
But I'm trying to make amends here
And I don't know where to start
So I'm giving you this map of my heart.

And then Miles surprises us with a film noir-type vignette called Sunset Blvd with its catchy beat and lyrics taken right out of the supermarket tabloids. It is so vividly written and performed that you can imagine the desperate lives lived there from day to day.

The recording closes with the wonderful tune Rust, which Miles wrote for her father. I think anyone would be proud of lyrics like these:

Every line in your face is a road you've been down
It's a freight train you hopped
It's a night in a strange town
It's a joke that you told, it's a tear that rolled on
A sad story you heard or a lover who's gone.

Okay, so it's no secret. I love Lynn Miles. Hers is a voice so fresh and so distinctive that it's like no other. She may be Canada's best kept secret, but I'm hoping that she's not a secret for too long. A talent this big cannot be hidden. Night in a Strange Town is a classic.

Track list:

  • Anywhere
  • Middle of the Night
  • The One You're Waiting For
  • Yeah Yeah
  • Beautiful Night
  • Sacre Coeur
  • Wrong
  • Map of My Heart
  • Perfect Romance
  • Sunset Blvd
  • Rust

Edited by David Schultz

Copyright 2000, Peterborough Folk Music Society and Roberta B. Schwartz.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.

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