The Great Escape: The Great Escape

Singer Amie Miriello is a diverse talent to be reckoned with and the album becomes a sonic adventure waiting to see what she's going to do next.
The Great Escape
The Great Escape

The sunny and bohemian setting of Venice, California offers some of America’s most scenic and laid back vibes. But it’s clearly still a good place to dig into the blues, as evidenced by the debut album from The Great Escape. The blues rock trio calls Venice home and their self-titled and self-produced debut seems to tap into some of the bluesy mojo that’s been rising out of the Venice scene at least since The Doors lit the Los Angeles night on fire in the ’60s.

Vocalist Amie Miriello is a dynamo, with a voice that can range across a variety of blues, soul and rock stylings. Complemented by guitarist Malte Hagemeister and drummer Kristian Nord (who originally hail from Hamburg, Germany), the band comes across with a retro sound sort of like a cross between The Black Keys and Dead Weather. Yet Miriello, a Connecticut native, delves into some deep soul vibes as well ala sirens such as Adele and Amy Winehouse. But she also steps out with an impressive vocal diversity that makes her tough to pigeonhole.

The trio met while songwriting for other artists and soon discovered they shared a vision, the elusive key to forming any successful band. “All I Think About” kicks off the album with a bluesy stomp as Miriello declares an obsessive devotion that could just as easily be about the music as a lover. She stakes a claim of eccentric independence on the fuzzy “Rebel”, where she sings “I wash my hair in champagne, I don’t care I’m a rebel / Some people call me insane but they just ain’t on my level.” With that line, The Great Escape connect back to blues legend Noah Lewis’ “New New Minglewood Blues”, a song popularized by the Grateful Dead’s Bob Weir and the classic line, “Doctor calls me crazy, some says I am, some says I ain’t / Preacher man call me a sinner, but his little girl call me a saint”.

But then the band throws a great curveball with the upbeat gospel pop vibe of “The Secret Song”, where Miriello’s charismatic vocal conjures more of a carefree day at the beach. It becomes clear here that Amie Miriello is a diverse talent to be reckoned with and the album becomes a sonic adventure waiting to see what she’s going to do next. The boys can play, but they’re always playing for the song rather than trying to show off.

Miriello goes into torch mode on the mid-tempo retro blues of “I Want It All”, then slips into more of a melancholy vibe on “Don’t Wake Me Up”. But she’s still full of surprises on the dreamy tune, singing with a yearning melodic vibrato on the verses that is downright enchanting. The band cranks it back up with the vibrant “It’s Getting Better” and the swaggering swing of “Let’s Go”, both high energy rockers where the boys get to dig in deeper on their instruments.

There’s no filler on the album either. “Put It On Ice” finds Miriello busting loose with some of her sauciest vocals on a groovy rocker that features some funky electric keys and will surely get dance floors moving. There’s also a freaky organ solo suggesting the band should add a keyboardist for the live show (although finding a good keyboardist who shares your vision is always tricky in L.A.’s pool of would-be hired guns). The album concludes with one of Miriello’s most heartfelt performances on the reflective “I Just Can’t Help Myself”. And there it is, a debut album without a weak link, which is somewhat akin to finding a unicorn in this day and age.

The album has an authentic old school sound because The Great Escape are not messing around with a lot of fancy modern recording techniques. “Lots of first takes made it on the album, and most vocals were recorded right after writing the songs”, explains guitarist Hagemeister in promo materials. He also noted that “demo guitars often stayed because they just had that right feeling”. Drummer Nord adds that it’s “all about the performance, not about perfection…When a take had the right kind of vibe to it, we just moved on and didn’t even second guess it.”

If their live show is as exhilarating as the album, The Great Escape should soon be on their way to escaping the anonymity that comes with being a new fish in the City of Angels’s vast musical sea.

RATING 8 / 10