Caleb Miles: Strange Weather

Album Review by Laura MacDonald 

 

Caleb Miles plays with his hat low and his fire high. It is a sensory experience to hear him perform the song ‘Silver Spoon,’ a dark blues in the murder ballad vein, about a servant girl hanged for allegedly stealing a piece of prized cutlery. Picking it on his shiny National Reso-phonic steel guitar, he and the song seem to exude wet storyteller smoke and ancient outlaw wisdom. This song along with eleven others make up his new album Strange Weather, and are a stunning arsenal of dark, lyrical, playful, wickedly good songs, set to be performed live at his CD release concert on December 17th.

Caleb wrote every song, sings and plays every single instrument on the album, and even recorded and mastered it himself. Far from sounding indulgent or cut-and-pasty, the songs instead achieve the radiant cohesiveness and robust energy of a live band. Caleb Miles is a masterful musician and songwriter, with his songs huddling conspiratorially around a rich subject area of Jericho and the jack of diamonds, black moons and gin, honey and jive. His lyrics are clear and classic while at the same time cerebral and poetic.

The album seems to cover every vintage sound of 60s and 70s music, from psychedelic rock and dreamy jazz, to feel-great pop and folky roots numbers. It sounds like The Beatles dressed in leather, Tom Petty on peyote, Led Zeppelin in the good ole days. Caleb proves himself to be a twelve-trick stallion who runs the gamut of musical styles and moods, covering with tasteful wit the themes of death, lust, and the apocalypse.

The music rocks hard with tracks like ‘Long Way Down,’ gets funky with ‘Story Never Told,’ is haunting and primal on ‘Oh Sadie,’ is achingly catchy, and orchestral at times; it descends into madness with ‘Ace of Spades’ and ‘Voices in Your Head,’ and rises sweetly at the end with the arrestingly gorgeous ‘Laughing Water.’ His songs creep up on you in the best way, and have a way of filling out a room, dripping green rhythms into every nook and cupboard.

In order to perform the album, a band of surrogate Calebs will join the real McCoy for his CD release concert: Ryan and Scott Hupman, Bob Federer, and Mike Carroll. To hear Caleb Miles’s songs, you’d swear he’s sold his soul to the Devil, or at least made some deal with the Prince of Darkness at the crossroads of Albuquerque and Portland. But see him live, and it’s obvious the soul is still present. Maybe he just sacrificed some voodoo juice to a passing desert oracle, or is channelling some mountain moon prophet. Either way, the show is sure to be one of the best of the year.

The CD release concert is Saturday, December 17th, 8pm at the Al Whittle Theatre. Tickets are $20 and can be purchased at The Rolled Oat Café, or online at www.calebmiles.net. CDs will be on sale at the concert for a special price of $10.