Della Miles, a 31-year-old from Houston, Texas, could very well wind up soundtracking your life in 2008 and beyond. Born into an extended family of six brothers and sisters, Della had her musical tastes developed from an early age thanks to her mother, who played piano and directed the choir at the local church. "That was where I got the confidence to sing lead and that’s when I learned I had a good voice," she remembers. At home Della would listen to the jazz records of Miles Davis and Ella Fitzgerald that her father, an accomplished jazz musician himself, turned her on to. Her own tastes at that time also included Michael Jackson. During her teenage years Della began performing in Houston clubs, sometimes along with her sister, while simultaneously attending high school. After some college years studying Criminal Justice Della decided that "music is really all I want to do" and started out for LA.
Della caught the attention of several music industry suits and soon found herself choosing between engagements. She sang backing vocals on Whitney Houston’s Millennium Tour ("That's where I got my big training") and cut an album with producer Barry Rosenthal. The record featured selections that played to Della's vocal strength but lacked the originality which her own penmanship would bring to the recordings. When Rosenthal tragically died on the eve of its completion, Della saw her album get sucked into record company limbo and instead embarked on a prestigious European advertising tour for Mercedes Benz. It was in that capacity that she caught the attention of Marius Mueller-Westernhagen, who overheard her from another room and was struck with her incredible voice. The two were introduced and instantly took a liking to one another. Westernhagen, a bona fide rock star in his own right, remembered Della a few years later and invited her to accompany him on tour. The million-selling songwriter was so impressed with Miles' abilities on the microphone that upon learning she wrote her own songs, he instantly offered to produce an album with her and Della agreed.
The resulting album is informed by the sensual sounds of classic soul music, melding heartfelt and personal lyrics with an engaging assortment of varying styles. The songs on Simple Days were conceived during a four-year interval in which Della's solo act developed. Hence the record showcases a remarkable range of style, both thematically and musically. From the wistful teasing of "Speak Up" to the full-on swing of "Simple Days" and the fragile beauty of "Heaven," Miles is at home in a number of genres and she's not afraid to let it show. There's the quietly (or rather not too quietly) romantic ballad "In my Dreams" back to back with the upbeat musings of "Where is the U" as well as a haunting cover version of John Lennon's "Love." Rather than reveling in the convulsively modern styles today's production wizardry can afford you, the record is pervaded by the same purity and allure old Motown singles used to display.
With Della Miles, the experience is actually worthwhile and strangely inviting. Maybe it has something to do with that formidable voice that manages to express something more about the human condition than is available with pre-fabricated entertainment tidbits. Maybe it's in the arrangements, an effortless amalgam of lush orchestration and vintage soul that resonates with listeners both casual and intent. Or maybe it is the artist after all, even if he or she may decline that responsibility.
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