Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Recording engineered by Mike Gentry
A man finds any reason that he can think of to explain why he is the way that he is turning out to be. He won't need to search very long before he has a thousand viable excuses for why what's ailing him is not much that he can control. He is just another victim of circumstance, the son of a victim of circumstance and the grandson of a victim of circumstance. It's without a doubt that this is all a shame, just another rainy soul and a man without recourse. This is only a small indication of weakness in the person, and more just the way shit happens. It seems that it works out to be one of the most interesting things about a man - the reasons that he gives for his shortcomings. It's the same for women and Rockford, Illinois-based songwriter Miles Nielsen gives both genders of broken people equal time. Sure, there are more references to men who are in a bad way, those who have lost hope and a whole lot more, but there's enough of everything to go around.
There's a woman named Maria, in a song of the same name, a "5'8" blue-eyed and pretty, with those eyes that could make a man do anything," and she was born into a family that featured a farmer for a father, who was soaked in whiskey and a mother who was murdered just when the girl had learned to speak properly. She headed for "the train, headed for the city lights in the rain" and it's foreshadowed that we're to watch Maria hang. She's got it all, but a clean head, all but a sure hand and a winning path to take. She chooses the bright lights and is bound to get lost, already stained with the knowledge of what "consequence meant." Nielsen loves to delve into different variations of self-inflicted pain and suffering, even when the attempt is being made to pawn it off as the toll from outside forces.
His latest album, "The Rusted Hearts," is a collection of songs about a collection of people who are remnants of what they once used to be. They are bruised and slightly bitter, but there's little quit in their clanking hearts. They're just going to keep battling inertia, while pointing out the various things that are contributing to increased inertia, while throwing down big mud patches here and there so that their wheels can never get any grip, but rather just spin wildly and splatter more wildly. At certain times on the record, you begin to wonder what percentage of pleasure is being taken from the slivers of hope and what percentage is being oddly taken from the spinning, the splattering and in actually having that liquored up beast as a dad to blame it all on. Most of it is coming from the slivers of hope, but there is fascination in all of the surrounding darkness, in what's really led them to that day. He sings on "Dear Kentucky (You're Killing Me)" about the booze and the tobacco, and maybe the ponies and their bluegrass, finding a way to doom him but good. He sings, "Smoking is sexy and cigarettes haunt me/Sweet southern dreams/The ashtrays are smiling as I try to fill them/A hand that she wins every time/Kentucky, Kentucky, you make it so easy." The death is going to come. It's inevitable. It will be cursed upon its arrival though the rusted hearts and those harboring them should have a pretty good idea who they're better off cursing. Actually, they've been cursed for what seems like forever.