Danielle Miraglia's country/folk/blues sound descends in large part from Mississippi John Hurt, and she is a worthy carrier of that guitar-picking tradition. Her voice, reminiscent of Bonnie Raitt's, is strong but vulnerable, feminine but never precious, with a gutwrenching catch to it. Her guitar playing is both accomplished and soulful, and her songs tap into the ur-melodies and fundamental chord changes that form the essence of western music, while still saying something in a distinct and original voice.
Both as a writer and as a musician Miraglia maintains a deep connection to traditional styles of playing and singing. The folky "Snow Globe," with only her guitar-picking as accompaniment, may be the saddest and best song about self-imposed isolation since Simon and Garfunkel's "I am a Rock." From its sparse beauty Miraglia segues into the draggy blues of "Sell My Soul," the obligatory "I wanna be a star" confessional every highly talented, unjustly obscure singer-songwriter has to write. It has the kind of dirty-blues feel John Hiatt mined a few years ago on his masterful Crossing Muddy Waters album.
Normally I'm not much for feel-good folk weepies, but it's hard to resist "Moment By Moment" with its earworm of a chorus and Kevin So lending backing vocal and keyboard support. "Say One Thing" is yet another winner, a harshly funny indictment of hypocrisies large and small:
Said the blind man, This is how I see it
Said the stalker, If you love that bird then free it
Said the white-hooded man, Love your brother
Say one thing and do another
Miraglia's lyrics are full of such pithiness. "Better," a clever and bouncy country-folk love song, leads into her masterpiece, "You Don't Know Nothin'," one of the best new folk songs I've heard in years. Its depiction and dissection of human misunderstanding is both sharp and tender. All you need to know about what drives people apart and what draws them together can be witnessed in a few hours spent in a bar. Many of us feel something along those lines, but Danielle Miraglia is that rare songwriter who can put it into words.
Returning to the country-blues groove, but in a minor key, "Cry" is literally about the grim frustration of being an infant who can't communicate her feelings. Perhaps metaphorically it's about artistic expression, but the lyrics draw such vivid pictures there's no need to reach for meaning. It's a fitting subject for a songwriter who's so good at getting to the roots of things: what could be more rootsy than infancy?
The title track sounds like a traditional country shuffle about life on the road, and for the most part it is, but it turns the cliched American "romance of the highway" on its head: "There nothing romantic about a highway/No big revelations, nothing new/And I can write a road song any day/There's nothing romantic about missing you." Then, in "The Only Way to Win," the protagonist pleads amusingly for misfortune and heartache so she can write great songs, sing the blues with authenticity and become a star.
In the pretty closer, "The Wind," Miraglia sings folk with authenticity. But it's the kind of song any reasonably talented folkie could have come up with. Danielle Miraglia's talents go far beyond that modest level. This CD kicks Americana ass.
By Jon Sobel