Friday 1 December 2023
Wednesday 22 November 2023
I thought I'd tell you a little about the genesis of the songs on the album.
That title? 'East of Ely' refers to the sense of a border. As I drive east towards Walberswick (M25/A12) I'm always aware of a fault-line, one that separates where I'm coming from, and where I'm going to. This boundary has become more pronounced since Marcus invested in his bolthole in North Norfolk. Our boltholes share the same border.
The sense of the album was essentially formulated in a fisherman's shack on the Suffolk coast. There is no concept. The songs aren't about driftwood and wild swimming. They do involve specific influence. But the ideas were gathered and considered here: east of Ely, in solitude: whilst in retreat. That offered me a clarity of thought. It's why I come here every year: to put my house in order. My room remains dishevelled. My cup runneth over and always needs refilling. Fortunately there's usually another bottle. If not, there are two pubs within staggering distance. The Bell is for the seafarers. The Anchor is for the farmers. Both parties used to meet Friday nights for a scrap on the adjoining village green. I try to keep both councils and emulate Jack London's 'Sailor on Horseback'.
Marcus later invited me up to his abode in Happisburgh. Familiar coast. Different outlook. Same sightline: at the risk of ridicule let's call it 'bucolic bliss'. I bought a guitar and songs. A mic was set up with The Scientist's directive: 'Let's see what happens'. The dogs Willow and Charlie took their places on the sofa, eyed us nervously and... we were off. The journey had no map, but we had a compass: a moral compass I guess. Our working relationship is defined by trust. And a little love. We both respect each other's skills and listen hard when the other speaks. We've never had a fall out: apparently that's not healthy for the creative process but it sure gets the bottle finished!
Our songs will often originate with my busker's version. Ten thumbs and the truth. I'll offer them to Marcus who will point out shortcomings and add flesh to the ham-fisted bones. Sometimes he'll offer up a musical motif or instrumental piece. I'll later use it as the starting point for something. I love those moments: they are gifts. Marcus's musicality is different from mine. There's good reason that I refer to us as 'The Hunchback and The Scientist'! The latter's finessed sketches are often in keys foreign to my fumbling fingers and beyond my vocal range. I'm forced into foreign territory: a peculiar pitch leads pulse and melody up unfamiliar paths. Lyrically the songs reflect what's orbiting my world. My universe has shrunk somewhat since retirement. Lockdown made us look inwards didn't it? What I thought would be a productive time creatively was a barren wasteland. I was rendered mush-brained: there's only so much inspiration to be found in porridge and duvets. But gradually, post COVID (are we there yet?) the effects became manifest and manifested themselves as songs. I never think I have an album's worth. But once Marcus hits 'Record' on a new project the muse comes stumbling out of the cave: bleary eyed but willing.
Whilst he's in the frame, I want to mention Mr Cliffe. It's nearly always my words. Usually too many words. As the singer it's my voice that you'll hear: my name might be mentioned first. Singers and lyric writers are orally inclined by nature. Gobs on a stick. Guilty. As ever I'm concerned with truth. It's a hoary subject: previously pummelled to buggery by better men and women than I. But it remains central to my mithering. Should it be feared, endured or celebrated? I want to lead a good life. I need to articulate that intent: and am then compelled to communicate my ideas to others. I'm desperate for that connection to be kindly and authentic. That starts at home: with Di and family. But it inevitably extends to Marcus. Miracle Mile are a duo. My verbiage therefore needs to stand for both of us. Not the personal details per se, more a sense of things as they are, were, or should be. The vagaries of my lyrical form becomes our form. I take that responsibility seriously. I don't speak for Marcus but I'm confident that he stands behind my words. As we effectively share the same bed, trust is vital. As you can see below, he's the style, I'm the culture!
Shivering Boy: Insecurity and vulnerability. The boy as father of the man etc.
Sparrows: Betty's journey with dementia. My memory needs to be hers. I have a terrible memory.
Night Wedding: Good things come to those who wait. But at what price?
Postcard from Happisburgh: Marcus personifies 'Happisburgh' in a musical vignette. The album's happiest moment. I can smell 'Charlie's Field'.
Ocean of Song: Resentments are toxic but abiding. Songs are my way of archiving hurt.
Shorebound: Me, Marcus and Lucinda try to bottle the benefits of the bolthole.
Butterfly Brooch: A lovesong for a butterfly.
Silent Sigh: A confused moment in a Tesco aisle. The same aisle where I detached my retina.
Chapel Flower Morning: A song about transience, celebration, growth and inevitable withering.
Come Morning: A hymn to her. A gathering of gifts and a thanksgiving of sorts.
Postcard from Walberswick: A note to someone who's forgotten how to read.
Tuesday 21 November 2023
Saturday 18 November 2023
Friday 17 November 2023
Rilke wrote “I hold this to be the highest task of a bond between two people: that each should stand guard over the solitude of the other.” Such was our silent pact. We regathered ourselves; learned to let the outside in. And then we took the coast roads. East of Ely. Shore bound. We shared secrets. Shaped dust. And in the silence we found sound.
Tuesday 14 November 2023
'Maybe the West's approach is right. After all, if you've got a massive fight in, say, a pub car park, the best way of solving it is clearly by standing back and randomly lobbing in fireworks. You can't get rid of an ideology by destroying its leaders. You'd think if there's anything Christian countries should know it’s that. Europe has rejected the death penalty on moral high grounds, and yet we relax this view when it comes to a group who want to be martyred. You can’t bomb ideas. If your kid shits on the carpet you can’t stop them by bombing the person who invented shit - though it would tidy up ITV's Saturday night schedule.'
Friday 3 November 2023
Wednesday 18 October 2023
“Trevor Jones finds the poetry in real life; Marcus Cliffe anchors it in the sweetest pop. Gorgeous as ever. You may cry.” The Sunday Times
Despite being based in a home studio in a rural backwater on the outskirts of West London, Miracle Mile chose to name themselves after a fictional gold rush main street half a world away where, according to adventure yarn spinner Jack London, ragged 49ers would blow their hard-won nuggets on booze and broads. They apply a similarly unorthodox approach to their career in general. The band’s core duo of singer/guitarist Trevor Jones and multi-instrumentalist/arranger/producer Marcus Cliffe have been relentless in their pursuit of the perfect song. Not the fastest, the gnarliest or the loudest, not even the most instantly commercial, but the song whose melody, lyrics, arrangement, performance and spirit might stand the test of time, giving pleasure to listeners not just for years but centuries.
They’d be the first to admit they haven’t yet found that perfect song and maybe never will, but I’d argue that their albums — the documentary evidence of that search — deserve a place alongside the best work of time-tested tunesmiths as elevated as Randy Newman, Elvis Costello or Tom Waits.
“Gorgeous melodies, hooks galore, intelligent lyrics that demand and repay careful listening, beautifully produced instrumentation, and an overall effect that combines poignancy and joy in equal measure. Music and words come together in a state as close to perfection as makes no difference, and leaves you with a delicious ache that makes you hug yourself with the sheer overwhelming joy of hearing such wonderful music. The beauty on offer here is enough to make you weep. It did me."
"Gentle enchantment. The loveliest melodies you've ever heard." UNCUT
“A little oasis illuminated by musical creativity, glimpsed like a lovely mirage. Intelligent tunefulness that doesn’t kowtow to passing trends has always been as rare as fish fingernails, but it’s here.” Mojo
“How to write ‘Perfect Pop’ and still remain unknown. They are magic, charming, almost naïve in their perception of beauty.” La Repubblica (Italy)
Immediately the music took a more intimate turn, with Jones exploring the little things that illuminate the big things. Almost every song offers up at least one unforgettable line, like "I'd rather be ashes than dust" in "Everybody Loved You" or the concept of filling the void left by his loss of faith "with despair and metalware" in "Starwatching".
Slow Fade was further enhanced by the delicately filigreed swirls and swoops of England’s finest steel guitar maestro, B.J. Cole, whose style sat so well with Jones and Cliffe that he has become virtually a full-time member of the band.
"Meticulously orchestrated, careful and complex, this is canny songwriting leavened by bona fide humanity." Q
“Miracle Mile’s obscurity remains unfathomable. Perfect adult pop.” The Sunday Times
“Moves you to tears and refreshes the soul. Scintillating.” Maverick
“A tender sadness. Songs that have universal resonance.” NetRhythms
“A gorgeous album that few will hear - unless there’s justice in the world.” The Wall Street Journal
“Trevor Jones finds the poetry in real life; Marcus Cliffe anchors it in the sweetest pop. Gorgeous as ever. You may cry.” The Sunday Times
Tuesday 17 October 2023
'East of Ely' is Miracle Mile's first new album since 2012's 'In Cassidy's Care'. It was largely written on the Suffolk coast and later recorded between London and Norfolk. Both Marcus and I found bucolic bliss in coastal retreat. The detachment informed the writing process and limited the palette to anything but primary colours. You won't be dancing but we hope that the songs offer some kind of balmy relief to your day.
'East of Ely' will be released by the Last Night From Glasgow Cartel in 2024. It will soon be available to pre-order on vinyl and CD.
Friday 27 May 2022
Boo Hewerdine looks more like God everyday.
Friday 11 February 2022
Never meet your heroes they say: you're destined for disappointment or doomed to simply walk in their shoes. Although Dean Owens’ boots are firmly rooted in Caledonia, it’s clear that his musical heart beats in, around and along the arterial song lines that connect the music of Arizona and its bordering states: “a wire around the heart of everything that’s sacred”. This is no cultural desert: Tex Mex and Mariachi boldly blend with Country and Folk to create a very particular brand of Americana. Owens had long been influenced by the weeping steel and aching feel that informs much of the area's music. He was particularly keen on Howe Gelb’s Giant Sand and, tellingly, its bastard offspring Calexico, whose masterful ‘Feast of Wire’ clearly whetted his appetite. He was thus drawn to the source: Tucson’s WaveLab studio, home of Calexico’s founding members Joey Burns and John Convertino. That wondrous duo's muscular rattle and hum underpins much of this adroitly understated album. He's a born storyteller is Dean, yet he ditches the narratives and goes straight to the heart of the matter: these are more cyphers than stories. Ghosts haunt the open roads, borderlands and dusty destinations. They are only ever glimpsed, but are omnipresent: displaced revenants whose whispers and moans tell of loss and longing: missed opportunities and broken promises. Dean cannily drops that syrupy brogue a tone or two and floats his beguiling melancholy over his compadres’ perfect rhythms. It occasionally feels perilously close to pastiche until you remember that, that is the point: Owens is there to tip a hat in homage to his hombres. The cumulative effect is one of gracious gratitude.
'Sinner's Shrine' is not informed by wickedness or worship: Owen's benevolence seeks solace, perhaps even redemption, in the recognition and celebration of influence. That confluence is a river worth crying over. Dean’s dream may be wilfully woozy but it is perfectly realised: spectral yet specific. Before he left for New Mexico, he had told me of his plan: that he had no plan, just hope for a musical journey towards kinship; a yearning to find and befriend the source of his ennui and inspiration. It's an oblique map for a travelogue; but what a trip. Dean Owens left without a destination and, bugger me, he found a home.
Sunday 23 May 2021
And here he is, stripping it down to its undies. Even the Liberace piano stylings cannot undermine the power of this brilliant performance.
What a genius!
What an Artist!
What a man!
Tuesday 27 April 2021
Make us happy sometimes
No more shout
No more fight
Tuesday 9 February 2021
Bruce Springsteen has finally made an ad: a film in fact: 'The Middle', to help celebrate Jeep's 80th year. And he's getting pelters for it:
“I believe what the Jeep ad was telling us is that if we just set aside our differences with the fascists who want us silenced or dead, Bruce Springsteen will bring us each a Jeep we can use when we eventually have to flee to Canada.”
Bruce himself dedicates the film “To the ReUnited States of America.” and says “It’s no secret … The middle has been a hard place to get to lately. Between red and blue. Between servant and citizen. Between our freedom and our fear. Now, fear has never been the best of who we are. And as for freedom, it’s not the property of just the fortunate few; it belongs to us all.”
Regardless of any fee taken or paid - he is a working man after all - the message seems like a fairly simplistic attempt to unify to me. I’m guessing that Bruce sees it as his job. His blue collar popularism has always appealed across the board. ‘Jeep’ is a nuts and bolts brand aimed at the working man. As is religion. He’s gone to the heart of the country. He’s put on a stetson and gone for the buckle of the Bible Belt.
Take a look. Do you see Christian Nationalism in the homilies? Do you hear resignation and acceptance of extremism in the call to "meet in the middle"? I just hear a tired, elderly man, keen on unity. Oh, and that sponsor's fee. At least Bruce didn’t give Jeep a song: a hymn: a slogan. Apt that the music he offered was ethereal; impressionistic: there’s nothing more undeniably American, or beautifully vague, than a gently weeping peddle steel guitar.
Friday 11 December 2020
'Where's the Revolution'.
Where's the question mark?
Perhaps it's missing because, as ever, there are more questions than answers.
Jack and I stayed in touch and, last year, I was offered a chance to hear new songs as work in progress. The sketches were incomplete but fascinating. I offered vague encouragement and moved on. And then early this year a package dropped on my doorstep: Jack in a box! His newly completed album 'Where's the Revolution' sat atop my 'to listen to' pile and... somehow got buried.
In the meantime I'd read about Jack's need to make this a homespun album. It was clear that here was a man in command of his craft, but one who was guided as much by budget as by instinct.