Gina Villalobos proves that a contemporary music artist of the female persuasion doesn't have to possess an American Idol perfect voice to create powerful music. Remember Kim Carnes or Bonnie Tyler? At times Villalobos' voice reminds me of these two, but with a heaping helping of grit and back roads dirt. On other songs Villalobos' vocals drift into a softer, more wistful, sonority closer to the singer/songwriter Wendy MaHarry. But comparisons aside, Villalobos churns out country-inflected roots rock that will have you reaching for the "up" button on your stereo's volume control.
Miles Away is Villalobos second album. Her first, Rock and Roll Pony, was first released in late 2005. It almost never came out. In 2003 Villalobos had an accident that almost ended her musical career, but she persevered, and on the strength of Rock and Roll Pony toured UK, Europe, Australia and New Zealand. This second album appeared first in the UK in 2006, and has only recently been released in the US.
The ten original gongs on Miles Away display a remarkable level of musical and emotional consistency. Although it isn't a concept album, all of Villalobos' songs share an acute awareness of pain and celebrate the strength required to live in the face of that pain. But don't think this album is gloomy; dark, yes, but not depressing. Underneath everything rock and roll's bacchanalian and Rabelaisian essence bubbles to the surface. From the opening tune, Miles Away demonstrates the rock and roll pedigree of rebellion and self-affirmation.
Co-produced by Villalobos and Erik Colvin, Miles Away features Kevin Haaland on guitars and banjo, Ben Pringle on Wurlitzer and organ, Sean Caffey on pedal steel guitar, Janna Jacoby on violin, Ian Walker on bass, and Anthony Zimmitti on drums. Recorded at the Cole and LaLeyenda studios in Hollywood, CA, the sonics here are rock and roll rude. In every mix the guitars are up front and in your face. This doesn't qualify as easy listening music.
Some Songs are created to soothe the savage beast, but Miles Away ain't gonna be included in that category. It's more about feeding the beast some meat and then kicking it while it's stuffing its face.