There are rumors that a wise guy reviewer once answered the question “what kind of music do you like?” with “I like good music.”
“Good music” seems like the best way to describe the offerings on “The Miles Before Us” by the Hillary Reynolds Band because it’s otherwise hard to nail down the rich combination of styles and influences that are woven together in unique and creative ways. “Miles” is an album that will sound very good on first listen and gets better as the nuance and textures are revealed subsequently.
Reynolds’ versatile voice and her lyrics are the constants shared by the 14 compositions on this CD. Her voice gives texture and additional meaning to her rumination’s on love and its attendant heartaches.
The opening cut, “Took Me A While” sounds like it should be the first track on an album by a female singer-songwriter who understands that “it’s never been so real.” Reynolds’ sense of irony emerges in “Pretending I’m In Love,” as she awaits “someday, someway, we’ll speak the truth.”
One of the aspects of the band that makes the sound unusual is the excellent but understated cello playing of Trevor Jarvis. It sets the tone for a country-flavored ballad, “Honey Come Home” that features nicely blended harmony vocals. Jarvis is credited as a co-writer on that tune and “Can’t Let You Go,” which follows and laments “can’t stop even though I know you’re no good.”
Guest mandolinist Forrest O’Connor provides the fuel for the bluegrass-flavored “I Surrender” which also features some excellent guitar work by Connor Reese. Bassist Chris Mewhinney sets a solid foundation for Reynolds’ and her hopeful longing in “Braver Than We Think.”
“What It Is” is perhaps the most radio-friendly song on the CD, a pleasant mid tempo pop tune that seems to accept that “we don’t have to make it more than what it is.” Rich harmonies and Jarvis’ cello fills highlight “Balloon and Kite,” which notes “that’s what love is about.” Reynolds’ “does not want to fall asleep alone tonight” on the acoustic guitar-accented “Crossing The Line,” then gently asks “take my heart when you leave in the morning” in “This Love Is Ours.”
Co-writer Reese contributes understated but lyrical guitar to Reynolds’ almost whispered vocals on “How.” She teams with Jarvis and his cello to create a poignant angst on “I Don’t Know Who Else To Call” as she begs “save me from my worried mind.”
The band steps the energy up a notch and sets a slow, bass-accented blues groove on top of Jeff Hale’s tasteful drumming to shape the lyrics on “Looking For A Way Back.”
This reviewer is convinced that Reynolds and her band mates saved the best for last with “Keep On Driving,” which departs lyrically into more metaphysical territory as Reynolds’ notes that “the future is in the dawn, I gotta keep driving ‘til I get where I belong.” Jarvis’ cello highlights a fine band effort.
While the tunes on this CD are now a staple of the band’s set list, Reynolds, like many artists, is already looking to what’s next.
“This album will always hold a special place in my heart,” she said. “The Miles Before Us” was one big DIY project from preproduction to the release date to the road. It hasn’t even been a year – but the cruel thing about my songwriting process is this: in order to allow space for new inspiration and songs, I can’t think about the finished record anymore. It’s a little annoying given the fact that I spent all last year with an amazing creative team bringing that record to life and now all I can think about is the next time Trevor and I will get together to finish a new crop of songs.”