When Bob Dylan infamously struck his first electrified chords to a public audience back at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival to signify his transition from cult folk hero to eventual folk rock legend, few would have dared believe the moment would resonate yet louder on a 21st century musical landscape currently dominated by folk inspired rock musicians.
Mumford & Sons have topped music charts either side of the Atlantic, and folk/punk singer-songwriter Frank Turner gained a coveted Olympic Games opening ceremony slot in front of an audience of millions in the summer, seeing the heavier take on the traditional genre still very much alive and well.
Will Miles, brought up in the west-country on a healthy musical cocktail of blues, grunge, jazz and folk records alongside the obvious influences of Dylan and early bluesmen, is the latest London based musician looking to take up the mantle of his heroes and ride the wave of current frenzied popularity in the folk rock field.
Refreshingly, despite fevered interest from various indie labels, Miles appears well grounded in DIY principles when it comes to releasing his music, not content with merely latching onto the coattails of a burgeoning folk rock movement by way of association with his contemporaries. His first commercially available, self-produced double A-side single, ‘Shallow Water/Angela‘ will be released via grassroots label Wildheart Records on 26th November, as a limited run CD with handmade sleeves alongside a digital download format.
The electro-acoustic vibe of ‘Shallow Water’ makes for a pulsating, Americana-laden slide blues track incorporating grunge style angst in the vein of Pearl Jam’s more stripped down moments, while the raw vocal growl in Miles’ voice evokes Eddie Vedder’s singing technique. Lyrically, the track contains expansive and detailed claustrophobic imagery, with the acute eye for detail in the weather elements and psychedelic mythical musings echoing Dylan and Neil Young in equal measure. The track depicts a harrowing mythological tale of despair and distress, before the protagonist is set free from the shackles of their psyche through a personal epiphany, cataloging the human form at its lowest ebb, before personal redemption is sought through the solace of love in an adept sub-four minute acoustic stomper which rarely lets up.
The natural raconteur in Miles continues on the altogether more restrained accompanying track in ‘Angela’, with a Dylan-esque sorrowful harmonica intro leading to slow acoustic chord play intermingling with mandolin and subtly sombre pedal steel guitar. The song pertinently encapsulates a melancholic tribute, acting as a figurative funeral march soundtrack and ode to loved ones no longer with us. Miles accurately describes the mixed emotions of anger, pain and sadness after experiencing bereavement, as best shown in the line, “Angela why did you go and leave me feeling so cold?”. The lyrical anguish becomes a perfect match for the harshness in his voice as the song progresses to an earnestly strained repetition of cries of “Angela”, seeing a climax riddled with heart-rending sentiment.
In this modern age where authenticity in music is becoming increasingly difficult to unearth amongst the numerous corporate music television franchises offering lucrative contracts for overnight success, it can only be hoped that the collective public’s glance becomes averted towards aspiring musicians such as Miles.
Invoking a myriad of musical references to create a brand of music harnessed from the depths of the soul that has culminated in recent performances at the hallowed Cambridge Folk Festival and supporting Pete Doherty, this is very much an exciting talent as real and visceral as any alternative rock fan dare dream.