Monday, November 2, 2009

Lynn Miles -- Black Flowers Volume 1-2; Katherine Wheatley -- Landed

Black Flowers Volume 1-2
True North

Hoot Music

Lynn Miles has long been one of my favourite confessional singer-songwriters. Although, I’ve enjoyed most of her earlier recordings, I’ve always preferred hearing her perform live in solo settings which allow both her beautiful voice and her excellent songwriting to shine. Sometimes, I’ve thought the studio arrangements on Lynn’s albums have distracted me from what I really wanted to hear.

Recently, Lynn has undertaken to record basic acoustic versions of her entire song catalogue. The two Black Flowers CDs, which she first released independently and individually, and which are now packaged together in this 2-CD set, collect the first 20 songs recorded in that undertaking.

Without other musicians on these tracks, my attention as a listener is, indeed, focused directly on Lynn’s voice and the songwriting. Listening, I’m thrilled to really hear these songs on a much deeper level than I have before. I’m really looking forward to hearing many more of Lynn’s songs recorded and re-recorded this intimately.

Lynn, along with Scott Merritt, is also the co-producer of Landed, Katherine Wheatley’s excellent new recording focused mostly on songs about broken relationships.

Although there are a few uptempo tracks, most of Katherine’s songs on Landed are quite intimate and personal. But, unlike some songwriters, she doesn’t make us wallow in her misery. These are songs that help us understand the vagaries of the human heart. Listening, I was reminded of something my old friend, Rosalie Sorrels, once told me after a relationship ended: “He broke my heart, but I got a bunch of great songs out of it.”

Although the studio arrangements feature anywhere from three up to a dozen musicians and singers, the songs retain the intimacy they need; the additional musicians and singers never get in the way of Katherine and her songs.

--Mike Regenstreif

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