By Dan St. Yves, Calgary Herald
Photos: Dan St. Yves
Sam Phillips would have loved David Myles.
The rock pioneer that helped launch the careers of icons like Roy Orbison, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Elvis would have picked up on the uncanny abilities Myles has to channel, not mimic a cohesive selection of roots influences into sounds that bring back another era by simple virtue of his honest stylings.
Myles was either born too late, or born just right to unite classic country, jazz, modern folk and roots with his playful lyrics to create songs that would have been as irresistible to audiences 50 or more years ago as they are today. The audience at Fish Creek Concerts stopped just short of blocking the exit, being the polite Canadian folkies that they were.
Otherwise, he might have spent the rest of his winter tour in the lush and warm environs of Southwood United Church – given his song catalogue and ability to tell charming stories around that music, we’d all still have been saddened to see the New Year arrive too soon…
The folk club brought Myles here for his holiday show, to perform songs from his 2014 It’s Christmas album. Between songs on that delightful collection, he recalled his time living on 17th Ave here in Calgary, and shared the backstory of how songs were written on buses and other unexpected locations.
Myles easily lives up to his own assessment that his style remains roots despite the outer rim having flown off that wheel to expose every one of the genre’s varied spokes. His non-seasonal catalogue (just in the first half of his set!) touched on retro roots in I Wouldn’t Dance. His Maureen sounds like a stripped down Johnny Rivers, maybe Marshall Crenshaw at the very least. In his tongue-in-cheek attempt to outdo 3-part harmony with doo wop (Change My Mind) he could have been early rockabilly-isa Travelin’ Man Ricky Nelson. Need A Break veered into George Jones’ White Lightning territory.
In addition to killer ballads and another self-admitted intrusion of Roger Miller influences, Myles really dove into the roots world with his “secular non-denominational gospel song” New Friend.
That said, as this was his Christmas show, those original and classic songs that he so masterfully recreates or reinvents were even more engaging live – no mean feat considering how good they are on the disc. I’ll Be Home For Christmas, the comical Santa Never Brings Me A Banjo, Jimmy Wakely’s Star Of Hope with Myles deep-dive into his lower register – all preached to the converted.
As if he hadn’t inserted enough variety of styles into his first half, the second included a sincere Nashville/Grand Ole Opry version of Buck Owens’ Blue Christmas Lights. His jazz version of Let It Snow featured a trumpet solo, and then there was an upbeat folk workout on It Snowed. Roots and then some, but roots on a whole other level…
Again he injected non-seasonal songs throughout the second half – the gorgeous Turn Time Off, a snippet and terrific backstory on his JUNO-award winning Inner Ninja with Classified – and So Blind, another of their collaborations.
Backed by the acoustic lead guitar work of Alan Jeffries and Kyle Matthew Cunjak on double bass, it was all in the subtleties last night. His encore brought the best parts of an unbeatable evening in The Gift, and an a Capella singalong version of Silent Night.
David Myles continues on tour until a week before Christmas, and will raise funds along the way for his Singing For Supper project.