There’s only one word to describe Lee Miles – throwback. Under the moniker, Chief Ghoul, Miles’ music revolves around three things – his voice, his guitar, and his stories.
With his second LP, III, Miles’ songs come to life despite the minimalistic approach. There are no synths, no backing band (although Miles may step on a stomp box or tap on a cymbal), and no backup vocals. The songs aren’t love ballads, but rather stories of nomadic individuals and their various travels and experiences. It is music that belongs back in the ’60s and ’70s, echoing of the great blues and alt-country artists such as Waylon Jennings, Kris Kristopherson, and Buddy Guy. Even Miles acknowledges this on “Wild West”, as he sings, “I want to tumble with the weeds / I want to satisfy all my greed and take what is not given to me / I belong in the Wild West”.
His music is also haunting, or as Miles describes as “spooky blues”. “I’m on Fire” and “Bed of Nails” best exemplify this sound. Miles doesn’t do anything special with his guitar (amplifies at times, adds some distortion), but when coupled with lyrics about a man on the hunt (“I’m on Fire”) or a man on the watch (“Bed o Nails”), the songs take on an eerie yet stunning mood. It’s as if Miles has taken the words of Edgar Allan Poe and put them to song.
“Done Dabbled”, meanwhile, might make the Coen brothers proud, as the song tells the story of a vengeful lawman who admits isn’t a saint. “Seven Days” is a slight departure from the rest of the album – not musically but lyrically. Influenced by Greek mythology, Miles channels Homer to tell the story of man who searches for the answers of the sea and the Greek god Poseidon. That man could be Jason (of Jason and the Argonauts) or possibly Miles.
Whether he’s telling stories about individuals on land or sea, Miles has established himself as a songwriter to watch. For that matter, he’s not just a musician, but a storyteller, and III is a masterful work of art.
III comes out on Tuesday, April 28. Get it at Amazon.
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