Lynn Miles,
Night in a Strange Town
(Rounder/Philo, 1998)

Night in a Strange Town is Lynn Miles' second effort. In 1996, the Canadian-born artist delivered her first album, Slightly Haunted, one of that year's best records in the pop/folk field.

It seems pretty clear that her record company believes very much in Miles' potential; after all, it's rather rare that Rounder Records (to which Philo belongs) works with such high profile producers as Larry Klein, who has worked with Joni Mitchell, among others. So it's more than likely that a lot of money and hope has been put into the production and promotion of this CD.

Larry Klein decently enhanced the already strong pop appeal of Lynn Miles' music. Don't get me wrong, this is still very far away from any Top 40 fodder, but I think with this record, she well might be able to reach out to a new audience, without necessarily losing her old one. Miles is now following the path that has been paved by artists like Suzanne Vega and Shawn Colvin, but compared to these she is still pretty close to her roots and the overall impression remains an acoustic one, despite her first-time use of the Hammond organ on nearly all the tracks.

The true magic of Lynn Miles' music lies in her knack for melodies. It's impressive how easily she seems to pen those memorable tunes, many of them possessing a melancholic quality which suit the often sad themes of her songs very well. Her lyrics are perhaps not as close to literature as those of Suzanne Vega, but Miles is still a wonderful craftswoman with her words, as she proves in the lyrics to "Map Of My Heart": "On this map of my heart/I've drawn every single scar/and when I close my eyes/I can feel exactly where they are/I drew a big room for forgiverness/I drew a big room for forgetting/I drew a great big room for mercy/and the biggest for regretting."

A British journalist described Lynn Miles' looks as those of a younger, more beautiful Patti Smith. So Lynn Miles has got it all, the words, the music and the looks. Maybe those are almost too many qualities for today's music market, but then again it may well be that this is a record that will delight people for years to come. I think Lynn Miles is a rare, rare find.

[ by Michael Gasser ]

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