Reviews:: Johnny Miles Sign of the Times

Johnny Miles record - Sign of the Times - starts with an unapologetic harmonica and acoustic riff. As his secure warble powers over top of the pleasant sounds, you get the idea Miles is more concerned with living a life he loves than ever making a penny for the wrong reasons.

Die in Debt is, pardon the obvious play on the title, a sign of the times for not only musicians but most people. The dollars don't add up to happiness, and as a result, Miles is quite content to die in debt. It's a simple thought from a simple time that is no longer here, and he sings it all over a simple song. Instead of forcing layers and loops on every track, Miles prefers to revisit a sound where drums and a guitar were all that you need to form a song. Even with the piano line that dances around Modern Man, it's the type of song you picture getting played in abandoned train cars or from a local street busker.

I don't want to make it seem like Miles is second rate or lo-fi, he just isn't relying on studio tricks. He exposes his thoughts in a stripped down fashion, and they seep into your head, but he can also beef up the mix when he wants. The lap steel and mandolin are a nice change of pace on the frantic paced Faces in the Wind, so is the southern college rock feel of Gasoline or the punk-tinged Turn and Draw.

Miles probably isn't an artist that will be gathering accolades any time soon. He doesn't have 15 people on stage with him. He doesn't deal in anthems. Even his experimentation, like the quirky back beat and chimes of Signature sound more like a bedroom sound than a studio masterpiece, but that's why he stands out. He's not trying to reinvent the singer songwriter genre, instead embracing it for what it used to be.

Paralyzed in Love sounds like a folk track that could have been lifted from a 70's session. The piano and acoustic fight for the spotlight, and brushed drums and vocals are willing to hover in the back. It's the type of song that could be slid on any mixtape and you wouldn't blink an eye when you listen.

The title track, with it's floating guitar line and piano could be his nod to the greatness of Nick Drake, but instead of pointing out influences - Nothing Gold has elements of the Band and Neil Young - I'd rather just say you feel comfortable, settled when you listen to this record. Miles doesn't try to be an old soul, I think he really has one. An old soul with a new and much different time.

MP3:: Sign of the Times

buy record :: myspace


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