Saturday, January 16, 2016

Lynn Miles – Winter


Although I’ve lived all of my life in Canada, where the winters are long and cold, sometimes very cold, I’m not one who has ever warmed to and embraced the season – except maybe when I can listen to a favorite singer sing about it.

Just before Christmas, Lynn Miles, a favorite singer-songwriter, released Winter, an excellent collection of songs set in this coldest and darkest time of the year. Some of them are performed live with a string quartet, some are studio recordings.

While most of the songs are recorded for the first time, a few are reimagined for this set because they fit the theme, including the album opener, “Last Night,” an early song of Lynn’s that beautifully captures the magic of the first snowfall of the season (the only snowfall of the year I would possibly describe in those terms). The song’s lyrics and haunting melody are served so very well by Lynn’s singing on top of a lovely string arrangement.

Other favorites include “The Coldest Winter in the History of the World,” which doesn’t describe this current El Niño winter, but is surely reminiscent of last year when the bitter cold set in early and didn’t let up; “High Heels in the Snow,” a compelling and very sad portrait of a teenaged prostitute who doesn’t make it to Christmas; and “Casino El Camino,” a song about being lonely and far away from home in Texas at Christmas time.

In addition to Lynn’s own songs there is a beautiful version of my late friend Jesse Winchester’s “Wintery Feeling,” a song that so brilliantly captures the scene of a nighttime snowfall in Montreal, the city where I lived for most of my life. I love Lynn’s plaintive harmonica playing on this track.

The five songs at the end of the album, including the already-mentioned Casino El Camino, are labelled Christmas. But they're not so much Christmas songs as songs that are set around Christmastime, so I don't get that enough-with-Christmas-already feeling hearing them in January (or, I'm sure, later).

While there is a definite sadness to many of these songs (few singers do sad as well as Lynn) the album ends with “Twenty Pound Turkey,” a really fun rock ‘n’ roll song in which Lynn channels her inner Chuck Berry (with lots of help from Keith Glass on electric guitar).

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--Mike Regenstreif

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