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Paul Miles - Healing Vibrations

Alley Records

12 songs; 52:35 minutes; Suggested

Styles: Acoustic Blues

With this CD, remembrances of Richie Havens in the Woodstock 1969 movie immediately came to mind. Not since Havens’ spellbinding recorded performance have I heard steadily driving acoustic guitar and an emphasis on peace, love, and harmony. Detroit’s multi-talented, award winning Paul Joseph Miles has produced an all original acoustic set with music as infectious as Facebook. Throughout his 11th album, Miles showcases expert, nimble finger picking, poly rhythms, strummed chord progressions, and slide guitar while singing in a pleasant but slightly restrained voice.

I chose the one instrumental track, “Desert Bloom,” as the show opener for the March 31st edition of the Friends of the Blues Radio Show. I would not usually open the show with a song that runs just over six minutes, but this one created the kinds of moods and mental pictures appropriate for beginning a four-hour show. A "Desert Bloom" is a flower in an arid area, yet this song is only delicate enough to evoke the image of one until its one-minute mark. Then Miles's guitar accelerates into whirling notes and rhythms pummeling the air as fast as boxers pummel a hanging bag! This song is a thrilling ride!

The affair begins with “Keep it Mellow," a title delightfully misleading even though the words in the title are mentioned in the refrain. Mellow songs are characteristically slow, soft, and soothing. This number thoroughly breaks all three criteria! Paul Miles's unstoppable train-track rhythms on guitar are anything but slow. Furthermore, his vocals include exultant whoops and high-pitched squeals at unpredictable moments. Those wearing headphones be ready! "Keep it Mellow" exudes a driving propulsion, not calm relaxation. It's meant to wake one up and compel one to dance! Witness Miles’s absolute mastery of blistering tempos and acoustic fire. Despite its name, this song is smoking hot!

Ironically, “Cool Water" has a plea for relief more mellow than "Keep it Mellow." The title becomes a harmonizing-with-himself catchphrase that rolls right off of Miles's tongue like the liquid it represents. When first listening, one might think this melody is a simple ode to a hot summer day and its antidote. Perhaps, however, Miles is deeper, intoning the Biblical tale of Lazarus the beggar and the rich man. When the beggar and the wealthy citizen who had spurned him both passed away, the latter begged the former for a drop of water to cool his tongue because he was being tormented with "infernal pain," as Miles sings. Closing, Miles's guitar gave an ominous drum roll-like chord as he begs a final "Make it cooool."

Songs speaking more directly to the album’s overall peace, love, and harmony theme include “Heal” with its opening slide guitar licks and wonderful mid-song solo. “The world is going through a lot of pain; just like me every day...Heal.” “What Is the Message” is full of introspection and verbal challenges to us all: “Can you tell me ‘What is the Message’ [of life]”? And, Miles claims that “one day we’ll see the light” in “It’ll Be Alright.” More sweet slide opens “Remember Blue” about a late guitarist with a depth of emotion.

Not everything is totally cerebral; there is room for romantic love, too, as found in the up-tempo “Just a Little Blues” and “Whatcha Wanna Do.”

Unless Paul Miles is secretly Superman, his arm had to be tired at the end of this set of propulsive rhythms. What are not tired are my ears; they’re calling for a hit on the replay button!

Amy Walker contributed to this review.

Reviewer James "Skyy Dobro" Walker is a noted Blues writer, DJ, Master of Ceremonies, and Blues Blast contributor. His weekly radio show "Friends of the Blues" can be heard Saturdays 8 pm - Midnight on WKCC 91.1 FM and at in Kankakee, IL.

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