Miles & Mafale – Be Brave
Firmly based in an upbeat folky genre this duo has some engaging tunes performed meticulously by Catherine Miles (lead/harmony vocals). She knows how to effectively blend her folk-infused tone with precise theatrical emphasis. Quite an entertaining set.
Ms. Miles also has that expressive vocal style that could be applied to a show tune which means if she toned it down she’d be an excellent lounge/easy-listening artist as well. Diversification at its best. Few of the songs on the self-produced 10-track Be Brave (Drops Sept 29–Independent) are preachy or political.
Many are optimistically ripe & could even fall into a children’s genre. There are a few humor-oriented tunes (“Cricket”) that fill out the showcase but are hardly needed. Especially when the momentum is so resonant & Catherine’s range is so attractive. At least for me. Her singing is the whole ball of wax.
The married duo’s songs focus on time passing, family, loss, joy, hope, courage & perspective – the typical folky element when not indulged in radical ideals & controversy. They do touch upon headlines, but there’s no vinegar in their salad.
Their set celebrates & doesn’t ruffle feathers. Nothing sung by Ms. Miles comes out aggressive. The arrangements are poignant with meaningful words & drenched in musical beauty. Their lyrics are literate & well-written, easily understood because Catherine is eloquent with her vocals. Not eloquent in that she’s mannered & stiff but her intonation has colorful feeling & phrasing.
The showcase also has the added value of nothing being held together with cliches or novelty. Songs such as “Ocean,” have an uplifting sway & Ms. Miles’ voice is like a cool summer breeze of affirmation. Quite beautiful to experience.
She doesn’t go for the over-emoting which is lately favored by many contemporary female singers. Instead, she stays within a range of vocal heights the quality of Annie Haslam or Jane Relf (both former Renaissance lead singers). The warmth is also similar to Susan Osborne (“Lay Down Your Burden” from the Paul Winter Consort) & her tone has a salient strength. Never quirky as theater-pop singer Annie Golden.
Each song retains its character. “Rubber Band,” & “Snake Oil,” are superb examples of the duo’s precision, groove & ability to add a little luminous vibe & edge to their pop sound. Ms. Miles really lets loose with a vocal that flirts with melodies & musicians as she applies her theatrical experience to the highbrow performance. This is the song humor that works for them.
Highlights – “March,” “Ocean,” “Rubber Band,” “Snake Oil,” “This Is Happy” & “Remember To Be Brave.”
Musicians – Jay Mafale (guitars/harmony vocals/shaker/tambourine/handclaps/ukulele), Eric Puente (drums/congas/djembe), Jason Rafalak (upright bass), Paul Silverman (keys/accordion) & Brad Yoder (soprano sax/glockenspiel).
Cover image by Paul Silverman. Song samples are available on the website. CD @ https://milesandmafale.com/home