My Kind of Country

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Tag Archives: Heather Myles

Classic Rewind: Heather Myles – ‘Playin’ Every Honky Tonk In Town’

Classic Rewind: Heather Myles – ‘I’ll Be There’

Album Review – Heather Myles – ‘Live @ Newland, NL’

hmyles_liveFor her second live album Heather Myles traveled to Newland, Holland, which is home to one of the premiere honky tonk venues in Europe. The eighteen-track recording, on Me and My Records, was released in 2008.

The concert includes a nice mix of selections from Myles’ studio albums and an energized crowd. Listening to the project it’s nice to know there are places in the world that appreciate the kind of music Myles’ makes, no matter how few and far between they might be. The concert is a gem and Myles certainly deserves all the love the audience gave back to her.

Live @ Newland, NL kicks off with the fabulous “You’ve Taken Me Places,” which Myles first recorded on Rounder ten years prior. I especially like the extended opening with the drums and electric guitars that give way to Myles’ powerful vocal and the entrance of the full band. She followed with one of her standards, “Nashville’s Gone Hollywood” a tune that only gets truer with each passing year.

“Who Did You Call Darlin,” a fine Western Swing number, got the first rise out of the audience and they were clapping and singing along. The tune is a bit too retro for me, though, almost too slow for a Swing number. I did like “Playing Every Honky Tonk in Town,” a steel drenched number that came off beautifully in the setting. “Rock At The End of my Rainbow” brought with it a nice dose of fiddle, which helped the track stand out from the other uptempo numbers. I also loved “True Love,” which could’ve been a hit single if released in the late 80s/early 90s. The neo-traditional groove is one of my favorite moments on the whole album and totally within my musical sweet spot.

“Sweet Talk and Good Lies” is another magical number, with Myles’ booming vocal leading the charge. The same goes for “Mr. Lonesome” and the retro honky-tonk arrangement that’s Myles’ trademark. “Big Cars” has similar treatment with a nice backdrop of steel to accentuate the production. Myles and the band closed the set with “Cadillac Cowboy” and brought down the house with one of the best numbers of the whole evening.

Mixed among the uptempo numbers were some wonderful ballads and a few choice covers. “One Man Woman Again” is a gorgeous steel drenched ballad accented with fiddle that had me longing to occupy a seat in that audience. Also good were “Little Chapel,” “Broken Heart for Sale,” “Love Me A Little Bit Longer,” and “Rum and Rodeo,” which were tackled faithfully to the studio recordings. The covers were some of the evenings’ best songs, chief among them a beautiful reading of “Help Me Make It Through The Night.” I also loved her stunning take on “Together Again” and Gene Watson’s “No One Will Ever Know,” which was unfamiliar to me before listening to the album.

As far as live recordings go, Love @ Newland is one of the better ones although Myles’ original recordings aren’t much different here then they were in their studio versions, somewhat dampening my enjoyment of this set. On the flip side, they were great to begin with, so they really didn’t need any switching up. But the best moments here had me wishing I was in the room along with Myles and her stellar band.

Grade: A 

Classic Rewind: Heather Myles – ‘Who Did You Call Darlin’ To Last Night’

Album Review: Heather Myles – ‘Sweet Talk and Good Lies’

sweettalkHer fifth studio outing found Heather Myles acting as a co-producer for the first time, sharing duties with Michael Dumas, who had produced her previous effort, 1998’s Highways and Honky Tonks. Sweet Talk and Good Lies was released in June 2002. It consists of twelve tracks, ten of which are Heather’s original compositions. The remaining two tracks are covers of Jimmy Webb’s “By The Time I Get To Phoenix”, which was popularized by Glen Campbell in 1967, American torch song “Cry Me A River”, which had originally been written for Ella Fitgerald. Both covers — and the later in particular — are creative stretches for Heather, but she pulls them off well. But with her original songs, which are the meat and potatoes of the album, she remains true to the Bakersfield sound.

The album produced one single, the mid-tempo “Never Had A Broken Heart”, which is by far the most radio-friendly song on the album. In the hands of a better known artist, it might have been a hit and it’s a bit surprising that no one ever chose to cover it. Heather’s version did not chart. “Big Cars” is another track that sounds mainstream enough to have been a hit for someone.

Pairing Heather with Dwight Yoakam seems not only like good move artistically, but also an opportunity to get some chart action. However, the Tex-Mex flavored “Little Chapel”, complete with mariachi horns, is decidedly non-commercial. The rest of the album is decidedly more traditional. The title track is somewhat reminiscent of “Wine Me Up”, while “If the Truth Hurts” sounds like it came straight out of Buck Owens’ catalog. “One Man Woman Again” — my favorite track on the album — is a beautiful retro-sounding ballad. Another favorite “Nashville’s Gone Hollywood” is Heather’s own version of “Murder on Music Row”, and unfortunately the lyrics are as relevant today as they were back in 2002. “Your Little Homemaker” is two parts Bakersfield and one part Loretta Lynn. A studio version of “Sweet Little Dangerous”, a song that Heather had performed on her 1998 live album, is also included here.

Heather pushes the envelope slightly with “The Love You Left Behind”, on which she breaks from tradition by including a subtle string section. It’s not a bad song but it’s a little maudlin and my least favorite. On “Cry Me A River” she shows that she is more than capable of handling torch material. I’ve always found “By The Time I Get To Phoenix” to be somewhat dull. I like it a little better after hearing Heather’s version, but it seems like an odd choice for her; I suspect it was included to demonstrate that she is more than just a honky-tonk singer. It does make one wonder what kind of career she might have had if she had been signed to a major label and been willing to modify her sound to accommodate the commercial demands of the time. Her disdain for pop-country may have prevented her from becoming a big star, but she did create some amazing music. I’m only sorry that she hasn’t been more prolific.

Grade: A

Album Review: Heather Myles – ‘Highways & Honky Tonks’

highways and honky tonksHeather’s third studio album, and fourth overall, saw her move to Rounder Records. It consists almost entirely of self-penned originals, all very well written and well-suited to Heather’s voice and style. Pete Anderson, best known for his work with Dwight Yoakam, plays lead guitar.

Rounder was a little more aggressive in its marketing than her previous labels, with a couple of the less hardcore honky tonk numbers released as singles, although neither received much airplay.

The excellent ‘True Love’ is a wearied but compassionate declaration of love for a man who is out playing the field, with an underlying acknowledgment of her own folly in waiting for him despite her friends’ advice. The second single, the ballad ‘Love Me A Little Bit Longer’, is a love song about a relationship which has seen its hard times but still has some life left in it. Both are mature and believable depictions of realistic situations.

The opening ‘You’re Gonna Love Me One Day’ is quite a good mid-paced song which offers a warning that the man leaving her will eventually regret it.

‘Broken Heart For Sale’ is a more traditional heartbreak ballad with melodic steel, while ‘You’ve Taken Me Places I Wish I’d Never Been’ has a grittier feel with Anderson’s twangy guitar particularly prominent.

The tender ballad ‘No One Is Gonna Love You Better’ is a duet with Merle Haggard, with some lovely fiddle dominating the arrangement. Haggard is in fine voice and their voices meld very well, while the lyric (about a relationship which may not last, but is the best they’ll ever have) nods to Hag with the line,
I know you’re a ramblin’ man

This is a definite highlight. Another favorite, ‘Who Did You Call Darlin’’ has a Tex Mex feel which makes it sound upbeat despite the accusing tone of the lyrics, in which a wife calls out her cheating, drinking husband, who comes staggering in “smelling like a perfume factory”.

The honky tonker ‘Playin’ Every Honky Tonk In Town’ is also great, while later she pleads for ‘Mr Lonesome’ to leave her alone. ‘Rock At The End Of My Rainbow’ while still solid, is perhaps the least interesting song included.

A couple of covers are thrown in: the sunny Charley Pride hit ‘Kiss An Angel Good Morning’ and a very enjoyable version of Ray Price’s ‘I’ll Be There’, but the meat of album is Heather’s own excellent songs. She really should have been a bigger star.

Grade: A

Album Review: Heather Myles – ‘Sweet Little Dangerous – Live at The Bottom Line’

heathermylesHeather Myles’ first live album was recorded in 1995 at a London venue after she parted ways with HighTone and before she signed with Rounder. It was produced by Nick Killian and Neil Brockbank released by Demon Records, a British imprint in March of 1996, helping to bridge the gap between 1995’s Untamed and 1998’s Highways and Honky Tonks.

The album allows Heather the opportunity to showcase her original compositions. In addition, she pays homage to some of country music’s legends — Buck Owens, George Jones, and Loretta Lynn. Her cover of “When A Tingle Becomes A Chill”, which she tells the crowd is her favorite Loretta Lynn song, is particularly good, as is her rendition of “Walk Through This World With Me”. She also gives fans a preview of “Love Me A Little Bit Longer”, which would not be released as a studio recording for another two years.

Heather draws heavily from her HighTone catalog for this performance, particularly from her debut album Just Like Old Times. “The Other Side of Town”, “Lovin’ The Bottle”, “Changes” and “Rum and Rodeo” — a particular favorite of mine which she tells the audience is the first song she ever wrote — are all represented here. All of these are original compositions except for “Lovin’ The Bottle”, which was penned by Gary Brandin. “Cadillac Cowboy” from Untamed is also represented.

Although many of the songs are available elsewhere, it is interesting to hear them performed in a live setting. Unlike many live albums, the sound quality is very good. Heather is in good vocal form, proving that she is as adept at live performances as she is in the studio. This is a no-frills performance with very little banter between sets. With the exception of the bluesy and very good “Worried Wife Blues”, Myles remains true to the Bakersfield sound. The crowd sounds somewhat subdued, which is perhaps typical of a British audience, but I suspect that this was probably a small and somewhat intimate venue.

Live albums aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, but I always enjoy the opportunity to compare and contrast how an artist sounds in the studio to how he or she performs on stage, and to hear how he or she works the crowd. Sweet Little Dangerous, while lacking in bells and whistles and theatrics, proves that even in the age of autotune, there are still a few performers out there who can sound as good live as they do on record.

Grade: A

Album Review – Heather Myles – ‘Untamed’

HeatherMylesUntamedHeather Myles continued with producer Bruce Bromberg for her sophomore album released on HighTone records in early 1995. Like its predecessor Untamed didn’t yield any hit singles and marked the end of Myles’ tenure on the label. The change led her to Rounder where she would release her next couple of albums.

In the same fashion as Just Like Old Times, Myles had a hand in writing the majority of the album, penning seven songs solely and co-writing another. “When You Walked Out on Me” is a classic mid-tempo honky-tonker and a perfect showcase for Myles’ voice. “Until I Couldn’t Have You” is more modern, with an acoustic guitar and drum led arrangement that gives the track a more polished feel, although it was still retro by 1995 standards. “Indigo Moon,” a southwestern flavored track, is a love letter to New Mexico and features a wonderful twangy guitar and drum accompaniment that gives the track a nice groove. “It Ain’t Over” features another wonderfully upbeat production perfect for Myles’ voice, but the repetitive chorus feels lazy and underdeveloped.

Western swing rocker “Cadillac Cowboy” may be the most traditional of the self-penned numbers, complete with a nice dose of fiddle and steel guitar. “Come Back To Me” is a fabulously sparse ballad that allows the ache in Myles’ vocal to shine through perfectly. The neo-traditional leaning number is one of my favorite tracks on the album. Also excellent is the title track, a mid-tempo ballad serving as a call to action for conservation (“We have ourselves to blame. If you want it to remain, then let it go untamed.”)

Myles co-wrote the breakneck honky-tonker “Gone Too Long” with Dickey Lee of “9,999,999 Tears” fame. It’s an excellent number for its rapid-fire pace alone, with the gorgeous twangy guitar serving as an added bonus to the proceedings. On the opposite end of the spectrum is a cover of Marty Robbins’ “Begging You,” which has Myles channeling Patsy Cline. The country shuffle serves her quite well and allows Myles room to showcase the power of her voice.

Jack Rymes wrote “And It Hurts,” another of the more modern sounding tracks on Untamed. I love the beat and Myles’ vocal on this one as well. Another of the more traditional sounding songs is “Just Leave Me Alone,” which Eddy Raven co-wrote with legendary country songwriter Sanger D. Shafer. The track is good, but doesn’t stand out from other similar tracks on the album.

I must admit that Untamed marks my formal introduction to Myles’ music and I quite liked it. She covers a lot of ground here from traditional to honky tonk and modern country with an ease most singers couldn’t pull off. Untamed isn’t a revelatory album by any means, but it’s a nice pleasant listen just the same.

Grade: A

Album Review: Heather Myles – ‘Just Like Old Times’

just like old times mylesHeather’s debut album in 1992 on the prominent independent roots label HighTone Records drew comparisons with Dwight Yoakam, was tastefully and sympathetically produced by label president Bruce Bromberg, best known for his work with blues artists. Heather was a hardcore neo-honky tonker and the record is packed full of excellent mostly self-penned material in a generally traditional vein.

The outstanding song, the steel-laced ‘Rum And Rodeo’, has an irresistible, sinuous melody. Heather exudes a wearied melancholic regret as she ponders the drink problem which destroyed her cowboy lover and her love for him:

You had my love and then you let it go
It’s been three years since you walked through my door
Now you say you want to start anew
Well, I think I’ve had my fill of you
Cause too much rum and rodeo
Got the better of your cowboy soul
You never spend one night alone
You got no home to call your own

It may not have made mainstream waves, but it is a stunning song and beautiful vocal.

You probably know Jim Lauderdale’s ‘Stay Out Of My Arms’ from George Strait’s cut (on his Easy Come Easy Go album) a year after Heather’s version, which is excellent. Also great are the Bakersfield style shuffle ‘Make A Fool Out Of Me’ and the pacy honky tonker ‘Lovin’ The Bottle Tonight’. The sassy ‘Love Lyin’ Down’ has Heather responding to a man planning to leave with a firm kissoff. ‘I Love You, Goodbye’ is another excellent song, a sweetly sung ballad with a cynical lyric, as the disillusioned protagonist faces her ex-lover with another woman.

‘One Good Reason Why’ is a ballad with a lovely melody and regretful lyric looking back on an adulterous relationship. The title track is a ballad about meeting up with an ex-lover with a subtle Mexican feel. A languid wistful reading of the Stonewall Jackson classic ‘Why I’m Walkin’’ is also good although the Ricky Skaggs’ version from the 80s remains my personal favorite.

The less remarkable but pleasant ‘Changes’ and ‘The Other Side Of Town’ with its sympathetic look at lonely urban lives aren’t bad but not quite as strong as the other songs. She closes with a left-field entry, a sultry blues cheating song written by bluesman Robert Cray (a labelmate) entitled ‘Playin’ In The Dirt’, which works well.

This is a excellent album which deserves to be better known, and probably would be if Heather had had a major label deal. If you lean to the more traditional side of country, pick this one up.

Grade: A

Classic Rewind: Heather Myles – ‘You’re Gonna Love Me One Day’

Classic Rewind: Heather Myles – ‘Nashville’s Gone Hollywood’

Spotlight Artist: Heather Myles

Heather+MylesWhen Dolly Parton asked, “Why don’t more women sing honky-tonk songs?” she clearly was not referring to Heather Myles; the Riverside, California native, who was born on July 31, 1962, is one of country music’s few female honky-tonkers and one of an even smaller number of female artists associated with the Bakersfield sound. Her parents owned a horse ranch, and from an early age Heather was exposed to the music of Hank Williams, Merle Haggard, and Loretta Lynn. Unlike many other country artists, however, she was no child prodigy. She didn’t own her own guitar until she was 21, she was 24 before she finally joined a band, and she was 30 when her first album was released. That project, 2002’s Just Like Old Times, consisted mainly of her own original songs and was the first of a pair of album’s released by HighTone Records. Her second album Untamed was released in 1995.

By the mid-90s country music had moved in a more pop direction, making it difficult for Heather’s music to gain any mainstream traction. HighTone’s lack of an adequate distribution system also made it difficult for fans to find Heather’s music and ulitmately led to her departure from the label after the release of Untamed. Though she wasn’t enjoying much commercial success at home, she developed a loyal following in Europe and spent the better part of the next four years in the United Kingdom. The European country music fan base, though small, tends to favor more tradition-based music, which was a good fit with Heather’s musical style. Her 1996 live album, Sweet Little Dangerous, was recorded in England and released on Britain’s Demon label.

By 1998 Heather had signed with Rounder and released Highways & Honky Tonks, which included a duet with Merle Haggard. 2002’s Sweet Talk and Good Lies paired her for a duet with Dwight Yoakam. Her most recent album In The Wind, was reviewed by Occasional Hope when it was released in 2010.

Mainstream success has continued to elude Heather, in no small part due to her refusal to alter her sound in concession to the pop-flavored country currently in vogue. However, her cult following in Europe and the exposure she’s received on Americana radio stations, have enabled her to eke out a respectable living from her music. IF you like your country straightforward and unapologetic, Heather’s the girl for you. We hope you’ll enjoy the coverage as we spotlight her career during December.

Album Review: Heather Myles – ‘In The Wind’

California honky tonker Heather Myles has been around for a while, but has released only a handful of albums on a succession of independent labels (including two on Rounder) since she emerged in the early 90s, and nothing for the last few years apart from a live album and compilation. She has at last re-emerged with some new self-penned material on (her own?) Me And My Americana label. Heather co-produced the album (recorded in California and mixed in Texas) with bassist Taras Prodaniuk, a former member of Dwight Yoakam’s band. She has a distinctive and weighty alto voice which works well with her material.

The solid opener ‘When Did You Stop Loving Me’ sets out Heather’s stall and is a very retro sounding Bakersfield shuffle which is the kind of sad song it is a joy to hear. Similarly the equally good drinking song, ‘Broke And Broken Hearted’, is sprightly sounding belying its downbeat lyrics as the protagonist declares that she is getting over her ex (but still can’t pay the rent as she has lost her job). In another post-relationship breakdown number, Heather is more cheerfully ‘Smokin’, Drinkin’, Dancin’ Again’ when she finds herself single again.

The outstanding song on this collection is ‘Shoulder To Cry On’, a slow sad plea for sympathetic ears:

I don’t need a bottle to hide all my pain
I need a shoulder to cry on
Til I can stand on my own

The ubiquitous Willie Nelson duets with Heather on the chugging Tex-Mex ‘Don’t Call Me’, a kiss-off song to an ex which may not make complete sense as a male-female duet but is fun to listen to. As a lyricist Heather sometimes leans to obvious rhyme schemes, particularly on this song and ‘Pretty Poison’ a slightly clichéd complaint about a glamorous love rival, and I don’t think the material here is as strong overall as on her previous releases.

In the second half of the album Heather makes a few unexpected detours from her honky tonk comfort zone. On the more mellow side ‘Mama’s A Star’ is an affectionate and appealing tribute to Heather’s mother and childhood with an attractive melody. The title track is a rather airy and wistful failed ballad about (literally) moving on after a failed relationship by taking to the ocean, which sounds more contemporary than I was expecting from Heather. The closing track, ‘My Baby’s Good To Me’ is pretty much straight sultry blues.

There are three covers, the first of which, the Spanish sounding 1950s pop song ‘Vaya Con Dios’ is not very interesting and sounds out of place Much better are two country classics from the early 1960s, Wanda Jackson’s ‘Right Or Wrong’ and the cheating song ‘Walk On By’ (a #1 hit for Leroy Van Dyke which may not be as well-remembered as it deserves to be), both of which are perfect for Heather.

This may not be Heather’s best work, but it’s still an entertaining slice of California honky tonk.

Grade: B+

Distribution of this album seems to be rather limited, but you can get it from Amazon Marketplace or more cheaply from the website of Trucountry, the RFD TV show on which Heather has appeared. You can also check out some of the songs on Heather’s myspace.