T.J. Simon's #14 album for 2002
First Appeared at The Music Box, September 2002, Volume 9, #9
Written by T.J. Simon
In 1995, Emmylou Harris released Wrecking Ball, a breakthrough album produced by Daniel Lanois that was easily one of the best releases of that year. Haunting and ethereal, the disc trounced stereotypes by illustrating the risks a country artist could take without alienating a traditional-minded fan base. Harris’ follow-up Red Dirt Girl was critically acclaimed, but failed to capture the moody magic of its predecessor. Nearly seven years later, a Canadian singer-songwriter named Lynn Miles has proven herself to be the rightful heir to this sonic throne by imitating that same delicate sound and feel on her new disc Unravel.
Miles’ release begins with I’m the Moon, a soft, sparse, percussion-driven number that sets the melancholy tone for most of the album. The other odes to loneliness on Unravel evoke vocal comparisons to Lucinda Williams (Now I Understand), Shawn Colvin (Brave Parade), and Emmylou Harris (Black Flowers). The best ballad, however, is Surrender Dorothy, a clever and touching post-modern Over the Rainbow with an opening and closing production effect mimicking the sound of a scratchy 78-RPM record. Yet, not every song on Unravel is suitable for a crying jag. While this is by no means a country album, Miles draws upon some Americana instrumentation on the tracks Over You and I Give Up. And she establishes that she is not a one-trick pony by including a few peppy pop numbers to lighten the mood — most notably the title track, which is reminiscent of Sheryl Crow’s most infectious work.
In her attempt to draw upon the influences of Wrecking Ball, Miles called upon producer/guitarist Ian Lefeuvre who has very effectively borrowed a page from the Lanois production handbook. The instrumentation is top-notch and appropriate for the particular message conveyed on each flawlessly written song. If you are among the walking wounded searching for a musical salve or if you simply appreciate excellent modern songwriting, then Unravel will surely meet your needs as one of the most gratifying and well-rounded releases this year.
Of Further Interest...
1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2002 The Music Box