Shot through with rage, regret and betrayal, The Leaving is by far the most personal work of art Miles has ever created. Opening track “The Waiting” sets the tone with his croon: “They are taking me to jailhouse / For I have killed my love in cold.” Chilling words, and the crisp acoustic strums and eerie slide guitar that accompany them make this song one of the finest Miles has ever recorded.
The next track would fit right in next to the songs of Neil Young and The Band, two of Miles’ strongest influences. “Me and Robert E. Lee, we fooled ourselves,” he sings over chugging guitars, and he proceeds to give a searing kiss-off to his very own lost cause – a relationship with a lover who “sold me down the river for someone else.”
The mood eases for a moment with “Sunday Brothers,” a mellow Elliott Smith-style ditty. Then it’s back to the bloodshed with “Ballad of Laura Belle,” a murky tale of violence and tragedy. The first half of the album wraps up with “Let You Down,” combining an effortlessly melancholy melody with a futile plea: “Don’t let me down / I won’t let you down.”
Things take a turn for the Dylanesque on The Leaving’s second half, most notably in the pissed-off poetry and scrappy harmonica-plus-strum of “It’s Alright Marie,” “Lions” and “No You’re Not. You’re Disloyal.” “You turned into what you swore you’d never be / You take it out on me,” snarls Miles.
The emotional intensity only increases as the album draws to a close. In fact, The Leaving’s one-two punch of a finale is downright shattering. The title track’s gentle guitar and pedal steel convey the lyrics with heartbreaking clarity as Miles sings with fragile grace, “Once told me I were a burden / As if sickness were a choice / Wonder when the other shoe falls / With no one around, will there be noise?”
All the album’s pent-up anguish and anger culminate in “Hold Your Head Down.” The song begins as a ringing folk anthem, then careens off the rails, finally disintegrating into a cathartic explosion of feedback and drums worthy of the Wilco masterpiece Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. It’s a fitting end for what just might be Miles’ best album. - Caleb Cook, Whatzup Magazine
released January 1, 2011
Jon Ross: Drums, Bass, Organ
Jon Keller: Electric Guitar
Kyle Morris: Pedalsteel
Lee Miles: Guitar, Banjo, Vocals, Harmonica
all rights reserved