Change and Elvis are solid inspirations for new music, and who knows more about change than Miley Cyrus?
On her sixth album, the country-pop Younger Now, Cyrus and co-producer Oren Yoel bring her husky voice back home to Nashville where the singer pulls on her family roots. The album makes a return to Cyrus being a singer/songwriter with its clear, melody-driven and acoustic-based tunes.
Younger Now makes an impact early with two singles: the title track and Malibu. Both songs have California sunshine galore and solid radio power. The title song is a dramatically-driven celebration of rediscovery that has resonance but it bows down to the sorrowful ballad, Miss You So Much. That song pays tribute to a dead friend and Cyrus’ vocal has the quality of a true lament. The ballsy character always inherent in Cyrus’ voice comes through in Bad Mood and Love Someone, two downtempo rock tracks.
She’s a natural singer whose deep voice has an easy confidence with melody, but being tabloid fodder can be bad for being a musician. Cyrus has been heavily scrutinized.
She’s got her image to deal with but any doubters should pay heed to the Backyard Sessions — her live performance jams that came out several years ago. She’s tough and soulful, working out on songs like Jolene. Her Nashville upbringing exposed her to traditional sounds and mountain music as well as family friends like godmother Dolly Parton who guests on and co-wrote Rainbowland. The song is a tribute to tolerance, cleverly based on a hokey back porch twang tune.
She comes from country — at some point she has to play some country. Like rock and roll, there’s a wide range to work in. She’s proved beyond a doubt that she’s versatile and has imagination – and she’s a soulful singer. Listen to that here.
–Dean Gordon-Smith is a Vernon-based musician who reviews the latest music releases in his column, Street Sounds, every Friday.