Mia Dyson’s father made guitars and she spent her childhood pondering their beauty has she listened to him plunk out blues melodies on them. This has resulted in a collection of album that sound more steeped in roots than influenced by them. She has a scorching blue voice that cuts through the rock edges of her music and comes out polished with emotion and fire. Her albums are less songs and more a collection of shimmering moments that burrow into the soul and set up camp. Her latest album Idyllwild is her most complex and searching album to date. It is a luminous blues album that haunts the ground between believing and beseeching where the human soul resides.
The title track opens the album with a howling guitar and Dyson’s voice in all of its raspy glory. It is a hard hitting song, the kind of gritty, sweaty ballad that Southern Rock used to be known for. “Growing Up” warps a trippy gospel sound into an ebullient celebration of confusion. “I am alive inside the story,” Dyson sings with a dreamy giddiness, before moaning “Ohhh, growing up tangled.” Its not the only song that finds her celebrating the sheer messiness of the music life. “Any Three Chords’ comes off like one of the better Lucinda Williams laments. “I only wanna sing in a band, I only want to travel the world,” she sings, “If only I could sing for a crowd that would love me better than I can.” Dyson is a woman born to the blues and her voice crackles with it. Her songs, on the other hand, are fueled by an air of contentment. Normally, this would be accompanied by a sense of stability and an air of contemplation. Dyson, however, does not let roots tie her down. A sense of home is replaced by a sense of adventure and she wants to live in her moments rather than explore them. “When We’re Older” is a promise of commitment masked as a hopeful travel plan. Her love songs snuggle up with a partner, settling with them without ever settling down.
The album carries the weight of the world, easily in a knapsack slung over one shoulder. Only, ”She Can’t Take the World” pauses to fret briefly over the things one is forced to leave behind and even that is such with such gusto and such a sense of sheer fun that the listener cannot help but think the loss is worth it. Artists and album are often described as “a breath of fresh air” when they brings something new or original to the table. Mia Dyson is something more than that. Idyllwild is a slight mountain zephyr that creeps off a desert plateau and winds its way into your downtown apartment, reminding you of that vacation you took as a child and the one you hope to take next summer. It is a hot and dry breeze, one that causes the hair to stick to the sweat on the back of your neck. It is the perfect album for this summer, and to get you through all of the dark night ahead come winter.