I don’t know for certain how one acquires a copy of Lee Miles’ covers-only album, Leaves That Are Green, but I consider myself very lucky to have it in my possession. I’m also lucky to have heard a sneak preview of Miles’ next proper album, 1,000 Lions, which I could easily extrapolate on at length. As tempting as it is to share my enthusiasm for the said yet-to-be-completed album, I figure it’s best to wait for the proper release. In the meantime, I have Leaves to hold me over.
One of the first things you learn about Lee Miles – be it through conversation, his music or lives shows – is that his brand of communication is startlingly honest and steadfast. In the spirit of this key element to Miles’ art, I feel comfortable admitting that, until recently, I was never a huge fan of Miles’ vocals. His lyrics and music were great, but I never got the sense that he had “found his voice.” After hearing both Leaves and Lions, this is no longer the case. On Leaves Miles has added his own twist to 13 well chosen songs by a collection of artists not easily emulated. In doing so he has accomplished a slew of important things:
First off, Miles has offered himself the opportunity to simply enjoy the music he loves. This is something all artists should spend more time doing while wrapped up in their own album-making processes. Clearly there has been no effort to promote or sell Leaves, making it easier to avoid any outside expectations and simply just enjoy the music-making process. Trust that this uncompromising approach, – despite the obvious expectations from his peers and fans that undoubtedly await his next “proper” release – will also be prevalent on Lions.
By altering the work of some of his favorite artists Miles displays his great understanding of song craft, an essential trait for setting the table of longevity and all too often nonexistent amongst young artists like Miles. With slight nods to the song’s original blueprints, Miles has created a cohesive collection of sparse recordings often flickered with hints of bigger ideas – ideas, one can bet, wisely saved for 1,000 Lions.
Miles has also done his songwriting peers a great service. By paying homage to the work of lesser-known artists like Sufjan Stevens, Will Oldham and Elliott Smith, Leaves will hopefully inspire Miles’ peers to play what they love rather than what they think they need to play to make others love them. This feat might be the most important (and daring) of all, as it draws a line between entertainers and artists, local flashes-in-the-pan and eccentric believers. No, you probably wont walk out of the bar singing Miles’ songs after only hearing them once; he’s not out to get you dancing or infect your spontaneity, Rather, he’s out to offer you something new and unique. It doesn’t matter if you like it, because, frankly, not everyone will; it just matters that he is doing what he believes in. That said, plenty of people will – if given the chance to hear them – love these quiet, acoustic recordings.
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