I’m always quite taken aback by the number of Americana fans I meet who’ve never heard of Lynn Miles – an Award-winning singer/songwriter with some fifteen solo albums across a recording career that spans over 30 years. She started gigging at the age of sixteen and, prior to the current pandemic, was still touring regularly throughout Europe and the Americas. Lynn Miles is not so much forgotten, it seems, as Canadian – and it’s this that would seem to be the reason she’s flown under so many people’s Americana radar.
We all know that Canada produces some amazing musicians, but it’s unusual for one of Miles’ calibre not to have achieved wider success. For many Canadian musicians, achieving wider commercial success has often meant a move to their bigger neighbour, the USA, and those that don’t can rarely achieve a really international presence and position themselves alongside such fellow Canadian roots musicians as Joni Mitchell, Leonard Cohen and Neil Young, to name just three. But Miles isn’t guilty of parochialism – she hails from the town of Cowansville in Quebec but has also lived in Ottawa and in the U.S cities of Nashville, Austin and L.A. – she’s been in all the right places and her music reflects this, being a glorious mix of country, folk and rock that is perfectly suited to Americana tastes.
I first became aware of her through her 1996 album ‘Slightly Haunted’, her third solo release. The quality of the songs and her voice, along with some great guitar work from long-time collaborator Ian LeFeuvre, blew me away and I was convinced that here was a future superstar, especially when that album was named a Top Ten Pick of the Year by Billboard. But it wasn’t to be and a major international reputation has always eluded her, despite the fact that her 2001 release ‘Unravel’ picked up Canada’s top music award, a Juno, for “Best Roots & Traditional Album of the Year: Solo” and she has continued to receive Juno nominations, as well as nominations for other Canadian music awards, throughout her career. Despite not being able to garner major traction on the international scene she is regularly well-received critically, John Pareles, music critic for the New York Times, said that Lynn Miles’ music “makes forlorn feel like a state of grace”, which I think is a wonderful quote and beautifully sums up Miles’ music, with its gentle melodies and yearning lyrics, though she’s not without humour and can rock it up with the best of them when the mood calls for it.
A prodigious musical talent, she learnt to play guitar, piano, violin and flute during her school years and was already composing her own songs by the age of ten. When she left school she studied music at Ottawa’s Carlton University but dropped out to pursue a career as a working musician and she’s worked solidly, recording and performing, ever since. In more recent years she has turned her attention to record producing, most recently producing fellow Canadian singer/songwriter Lynne Hanson, also collaborating with her in their duo The LYNNeS. She also runs songwriting workshops, she estimates that she has written some 900 songs throughout her career, and teaches voice as an instrument, she works constantly and is extremely well established and thought of…in Canada.
It seems, to me, that an artist of this ability should be so much more widely appreciated, but Lynn Miles appears to be content with her place in the world and who would begrudge her that. If you haven’t come across her work before take some time to check her out, I guarantee you won’t be disappointed – hopefully you’ll join the ranks of those that know of, and appreciate, this fine musician.