It’s been 10 years since Heather Myles released her debut album on Hightone records. The album, Just Like Old Times, has a few potential singles on it, but none of them really cracked the Nashville charts. It was thought that her next album would be her breakthrough record and see her reach the “star” status. But that release just bubbled underneath the surface. Using the Bakersfield sound in the vein of Buck Owens and Dwight Yoakam, Myles also hints at touches of Loretta Lynn and particularly Patsy Cline. Her latest disc only adds to the luster on a great yet under-appreciated, underexposed talent.
The opening seconds of the title track would recall any worthwhile sixties country and western album by Jeannie C. Riley, Lorretta Lynn, or Tammy Wynette. It’s a tone that has almost nothing in common with current country acts but harks back to the genre’s pre-Garth glory days. The honky-tonk swing and the pedal steel guitar by Gary Morris is another important part of the song, but Myles carries the tune with little harmony or backing vocals. “I’m a victim of your sweet talk and good lies,” she says as she wraps the tune up. “I was raised on country, a steady dose of Haggard and Jones,” she sings on “Nashville’s Gone Hollywood”. It’s not exactly a blatant attack on Music Row, but it’s hard to argue with the lyrics when she sings the lyrics, “You won’t need the Opry / You’ll be singing on Jay Leno”. Myles adds a slight twang to her vocals here but keeps the integrity of the song.
Tanya Tucker is another country singer that comes to mind on “Never Had a Broken Heart”, a slightly slicker and polished track that resembles Tucker’s late ‘80s and early ‘90s work. This is also one of the weaker and formulaic songs presented here. Myles still gives a great performance, but it’s too much of a cookie-cutter blueprint. She returns to form on the lovely “One Man Woman Again”, which has everything but the hiss of a record needle to complete its authenticity. “You don’t have to call me, I’m not that hard to find,” Myles sings in a tone that just isn’t found often in country today, aside from possible Kelly Hogan and Neko Case. “Little Chapel”, which features a duet with Dwight Yoakam, has a Mexican tint to it in the vein of the Mavericks. Dealing with a Vegas wedding, the duet works quite well even if it’s only briefly, relying more on a give-and-take vocal style.
The cover of Glen Campbell’s “By the Time I Get to Phoenix” is a role reversal of sorts, but seems to work when Myles hits the second verse. She also leaves it much like the original, which certainly doesn’t hurt the classic track. “One and Only Lover” is fairly routine but blends honky-tonk with a faster tempo and almost pop pace. “Big Cars” is an apt song given Myles and her history for loving motorcycles and repairing automobiles herself. A love ballad isn’t also out of Myles’ repertoire, as the orchestral “The Love You Left Behind” recalls the song Lorrie Morgan never recorded or the track Faith Hill would ruin with vocal gymnastics. Reverting to Yoakam’s “It Only Hurts Me When I Cry” as the blueprint for “If the Truth Hurts”, the California swing is quite apparent. It’s also one of the tracks with the most flow to it.
Starting the album’s homestretch is a great honky-tonk track minus a lot of the tonk. “Homewrecker Blues” reverts to the ‘60s country as Myles inquiries her ex about his new “princess with an attitude”. The backing vocals featuring Beth Anderson are another highlight. Myles never really rocks on the album, but the closest she gets has to be “Sweet Little Dangerous”, a swinging country track that has a rhythm that is comparable to a ska rhythm at times. Ending the record is perhaps one of the harder songs to cover, “Cry Me a River”. Perhaps recorded best by Julie London, Myles mixes a jazz arrangement with a like-minded vocal. It’s an average cover version as she doesn’t add much to the song, although she does touch on all the basics.
There isn’t a bad track among the baker’s dozen on the record, which is something that can’t be said for the usual three or four singles and six or seven fillers that most albums consist of. While it probably won’t bring her to the spotlight, it’s another great album by a classic country singer.
// Notes from the Road
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