Lynn Miles – Tumbleweedyworld
Lynn Miles is a triple threat, a world-class songwriter, musician and performer who has written more than 900 songs. The long-time Ottawa resident lures you in with her richly textured and distinctive voice. Her compelling lyrics and arrangements transport you on a sonic journey of finely executed instrumentation with mostly folk and country influences. You arrive at the end of each song longing for another.
Lynn has been “killing us softly” with recordings of mostly self-composed music since the early 1990s, and TumbleWeedyWorld is her 16th full-length album. There are country motifs aplenty, along with intimate confessions, heartache, farewells, wry wit and in the end, hopeful redemption.
This acoustic album was recorded in Ottawa from July to December 2021 in the middle of the pandemic. According to Lynn, the metaphor “tumbleweedyworld,” was inspired by the isolation of those difficult times. The phrase is also found in the lyrics of “Palomino,” the tale of a lonesome, drifting cowgirl and her faithful horse.
TumbleWeedyWorld features a “folky” country and bluegrass sound. Lynn is showcased on rhythm guitar and lead vocals and harmony. She is joined by stellar musicians Michael Ball on stand up bass, Joey Wright on mandolin and acoustic guitar, Stuart Rutherford on dobro, Rob McLaren on banjo, and James Stephens on violin. Guest harmony vocals were provided by Jim Bryson, Rebecca Campbell, Julie Corrigan and co-producer Dave Draves, with Jim Bryson and Dave Bignell making contributions on guitar.
The recording opens with the haunting “Night Owl,” a tune with plaintive, high lonesome vocals that reveals stark differences between the singer and a romantic partner. Of equal emotional intensity is my personal favourite, “Moody”, which evocatively portrays a complex and contradictory soul.
The moon is one of Lynn’s most frequent motifs. Five of the 10 tracks on this CD reference it. “Cold Cold Moon” is a lilting, metaphorical musing and one of several numbers that benefit from the delicate interplay of mandolin, guitars, violin and banjo. One outstanding ditty is a rare co-write with lyricist Maxine Wallace, “Johnny Without June.” It portrays Johnny Cash lamenting the loss of his wife, and it is interesting to hear Lynn express a male perspective. Johnny died in 2003, less than four months after the death of June Carter Cash.
A sticker on the album recommends “Johnny Without June” for airplay. It likewise recommends “Highway 105” and “All Bitter Never Sweet.” The former is a begrudging recognition of a romance gone wrong that references the Black Sheep Inn in Wakefield, and the latter describes a relationship that has run its course. TumbleWeedyWorld ends on a positive note with “Gold in the Middle,” an uplifting anthem that shines with the optimism and wisdom that can arise from difficult circumstances.
Those who pick up the physical CD are treated to a glossy insert with lyrics, cool graphics and evidence of Lynn’s signature humour. The insert is bookended by contrasting photos. The front panel portrays a demure Lynn wearing a simple black dress, eyes downcast and hands clasped. The back panel shows her in the same dress with a boldly patterned jacket, a mischievous grin and artfully mussed hair. A comment on the artistic process during the pandemic perhaps?
Although Lynn received a Juno Award for Roots and Traditional Solo Album of the Year (2003), two additional Juno nominations and six Canadian Folk Music Awards, commercial success has not always followed. Like many musicians, Lynn experienced financial hardship during the pandemic. Hopefully, this offering will bring her continued success. Because to paraphrase a track from her 2013 album Downpour, we don’t want less, we want more!
Learn more about the music of Lynn Miles at LynnMiles.ca and https://truenorthrecords.com/.