Lynn Miles: Black Flowers Volume 1-2

You may want to cry, in a good way, as a form of catharsis when listening to this record. You'll remember past heartbreaks that you got over, and you'll feel stronger in your vulnerability.

Lynn Miles

Black Flowers Volume 1-2

Label: True North
US Release Date: 2010-02-09
UK Release Date: 2010-03-08

Folk purists think the music should be performed without adornment. They believe just a singer and a single instrument, preferably an acoustic guitar or piano, is the perfect combination. Such people will delight in singer songwriter Lynn Miles’ new double-disc collection, Black Flowers Volume 1-2 . While the Juno award-winning artist has released several albums with many musicians supporting her in the past, her new release features Miles simply singing and playing a guitar or piano with minimal production and crystal-clear sound.

The material itself is nothing new. The Canadian musician has recorded these songs on previous records. She’s said to have written more than 600 tunes. The reasons for choosing these 20 tracks seem to have to do with their shared themes of sad times and loneliness. This may not be the most compelling subject for a double album, but it works for two reasons. Miles has a plaintive voice that evokes melancholy, even when she’s singing emotionally neutral lines. And there is something about austere folk that makes the sound truer and more honest when the topic breaks your heart. The message that life kind of sucks and that music offers a balm is as old as the hills.

Miles sings of needing comfort, hiding her heart, feeling pain, finding disappointment, etc., in poetic and lyrical language. Her allusions are more popular (eg. The Wizard of Oz, Joni Mitchell lyrics, Bob Dylan-style harmonica) than literate. This makes her work more accessible and less pretentious than many others who plow the same folksinger songwriter field. It can sometimes lead to cliché: how many ways can one say I just want to go home, find love, and so forth? These 20 songs do tend to sound the same after a while, as even the tunes seem to blend together into one giant acoustic melody. If you close your eyes and pick a track and try listening from another room with the words muffled, chances are you could not identify a particular song.

The pleasures of the two discs lie in this same consistency. There is comfort in formula, and this is inherent in the genre of acoustic folk itself. The music is meant to blend into a tradition where the individual talent serves the larger heritage. Of course, Miles wrote these songs. She is not performing old music, just playing in a style with a great history. Miles’ strength lies in the fact that she can restore vitality to a music with a storied past without making you feel like you are hearing the same old thing.

Miles also has a secret weapon. Like Mitchell and Dylan, she’s a romantic. These songs offer the confessional folk lyrics that wear their hearts on their sleeves. The emotional resonances of these tunes combine well with Miles’ affecting vocals. You may want to cry, in a good way, as a form of catharsis when listening to this record. You remember past heartbreaks that you got over, and you feel stronger in your vulnerability. This offers powerful testimony to Miles’ talents.

Just a girl and her guitar, and maybe her piano and sometimes a harmonica. Even in these postmodern, twenty-first century times, it’s a potent combination.


In Americana music the present is female. Two-thirds of our year-end list is comprised of albums by women. Here, then, are the women (and a few men) who represented the best in Americana in 2017.

If a single moment best illustrates the current divide between Americana music and mainstream country music, it was Sturgill Simpson busking in the street outside the CMA Awards in Nashville. While Simpson played his guitar and sang in a sort of renegade-outsider protest, Garth Brooks was onstage lip-syncindg his way to Entertainer of the Year. Americana music is, of course, a sprawling range of roots genres that incorporates traditional aspects of country, blues, soul, bluegrass, etc., but often represents an amalgamation or reconstitution of those styles. But one common aspect of the music that Simpson appeared to be championing during his bit of street theater is the independence, artistic purity, and authenticity at the heart of Americana music. Clearly, that spirit is alive and well in the hundreds of releases each year that could be filed under Americana's vast umbrella.

Keep reading... Show less

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.

60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

Keep reading... Show less

This week on our games podcast, Nick and Eric talk about the joy and frustration of killing Nazis in Wolfenstein: The New Order.

This week, Nick and Eric talk about the joy and frustration of killing Nazis in Wolfenstein: The New Order.

Keep reading... Show less

Which is the draw, the art or the artist? Critic Rachel Corbett examines the intertwined lives of two artists of two different generations and nationalities who worked in two starkly different media.

Artist biographies written for a popular audience necessarily involve compromise. On the one hand, we are only interested in the lives of artists because we are intrigued, engaged, and moved by their work. The confrontation with a work of art is an uncanny experience. We are drawn to, enraptured and entranced by, absorbed in the contemplation of an object. Even the performative arts (music, theater, dance) have an objective quality to them. In watching a play, we are not simply watching people do things; we are attending to the play as a thing that is more than the collection of actions performed. The play seems to have an existence beyond the human endeavor that instantiates it. It is simultaneously more and less than human: more because it's superordinate to human action and less because it's a mere object, lacking the evident subjectivity we prize in the human being.

Keep reading... Show less

Gabin's Maigret lets everyone else emote, sometimes hysterically, until he vents his own anger in the final revelations.

France's most celebrated home-grown detective character is Georges Simenon's Inspector Jules Maigret, an aging Paris homicide detective who, phlegmatically and unflappably, tracks down murderers to their lairs at the center of the human heart. He's invariably icon-ified as a shadowy figure smoking an eternal pipe, less fancy than Sherlock Holmes' curvy calabash but getting the job done in its laconic, unpretentious, middle-class manner.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.