Sounds Local: Sweet Little Bloodhound
By Sheryl Hunter
(Published in print: Thursday, October 30, 2014)
“I’ll hunt you where you hide
Catch you every time
You’ll fear me on your trail
Sweet Little Bloodhound”
— Sweet Little Bloodhound
Singer-songwriter Devlin Miles was in the process of recording a follow-up to her 2009 album “Autumn’s Fires” when she realized she had to do something different.
“I needed to move away from the singer-songwriter thing because it has this connotation of a chick with a guitar and she is going to talk to you between every song,” said Miles with a laugh during a recent phone conversation from her home in Brooklyn. “I wanted people to hear the music as a whole entity and to know that when they bought the CD, it was going to be a band sound.”
The obvious way to accomplish this goal was to form a band and Miles didn’t have to look far to find her band mates.
Drummer Rick Mauran of Greenfield and guitarist Ben Falkoff of Amherst had been backing Miles, who also plays acoustic guitar, during her shows for the past four years. She had originally connected with the two musicians when she was assembling a band to back her during some shows at Six Flags amusement park some years back. They would go on to tour the Northeast under the moniker the Devlin Miles Band and they performed at one of the Coop concerts, as Miles is a member of the Franklin County Musicians Cooperative.
Miles has worked with many musicians throughout her career, but had never clicked with others the way she did with Mauran and Falkoff. She was not only impressed with their musicianship but with the commitment and passion they showed toward their music. Together, the three musicians formed Sweet Little Bloodhound and christened the music they play “soulful rock.”
Sweet Little Bloodhound released its debut, self-titled CD on Oct. 10. The group will celebrate with a CD release party at the Iron Horse Music Hall, 20 Center St. in Northampton on Friday, Nov. 7, at 7 p.m. Joining the band for this show will be a couple of the local musicians who performed on the CD, bassist Paul Kochanski and cellist Greg Snedeker.
Singer-songwriter Russell Kaback of Greenfield will open the show.
Miles, who divides her time between Brooklyn and Greenfield, was well established as a solo artist. Her album “Autumn’s Fires” received strong reviews and consistently placed in the top 40 on various online charts. She was the winner of the Subway Fresh Regional Artist competition and also came in first in a contest to open for Bon Jovi. She will continue to also perform solo.
“The band doesn’t negate my solo stuff,” she said. “It just encompass and welcomes the band’s participation. Ben has really great licks on the CD and Rick plays some really cool rhythm stuff, so it wasn’t just about my own personal identity in the industry but it was also about acknowledging the work that they have put into making the songs more unique.”
The band takes its name from the disc’s title track, a country-leaning ballad with an infectious hook.
“That name captured the band’s sound — a little bit southern, a little bit alt-rock — so it made sense,” Miles said.
If you name you band Sweet Little Bloodhound, then it is only natural your logo would incorporate an image of a bloodhound. But in case you haven’t noticed, bloodhounds are not a breed of dog you see walking down the street every day. So, the band had to do some extensive searching to find one to appear on the album’s artwork. They were thankful to come across K-9 officer Robert Holst of the Erving police department and his canine partner, Officer Badge.
“We found Officer Badge and he’s adorable and has a great personality,” said Miles about the dog.
But Officer Badge is a trained working dog, so posing for photographs didn’t come natural to him.
“He is a wild child,” Miles said. “He is trained to constantly search and seek, so when he picks up a scent, he just goes. And he is very strong, so when we were trying to control him for the shoot, it wasn’t always easy!”
But in the end the pictures came out fantastic and helped give the band a sense of what it is.
Officer Badge was recently presented with his own copy of the CD.
“Sweet Little Bloodhound” was recorded at the Signature Sounds Studio in Pomfret, Conn., and engineered by Mark Thayer. It features 15 tracks that showcase Miles ability to tell a story and convey deeply felt emotions in her lyrics. It includes two covers — one of the Eurythmics’ “Sweet Dreams” and Fleetwood Mac’s “Gold Dust Woman.”
Falkoff has a background in jazz and rhythm and blues while Mauran is a fan of rock artists like David Bowie. Miles is inspired by a wide range of musicians who range from Steven Tyler to Adele. Put all this together and you get a rock album with traces of country, pop and even funk sounds. Think the Heartbreakers fronted by Carrie Underwood instead of Tom Petty.
The disc opens with “Don’t Take it Personal,” an up-tempo song Miles co-wrote with Mauran. Miles said she is constantly finding inspiration in the world around her and that this song came about after she observed a co-worker being fired and packing up their personal belongs to leave. Other songs, like the sad ballad of loss “Echo,” arrived fully formed in a dream.
A strong supporter of other artists, Miles shares words of encouragement in her songs. On “Be Still” she sings “Don’t let others change your will/It’s your truth and your life.” Then there is the pure pop sound of “Superhero Female,” a song of female empowerment that encourages women to “rise together, be strong.”
Miles said that song is already getting a strong reception and that Bonnie Garcia, who is running for a state senate seat in California, has been playing it at her campaign rallies.
“What I hoped with this album is that people would listen to it and not get bored,” said Miles. “I wanted each song to have its own identity, but still work as part of a project. I wanted something out there in the world that was going to help people and move people and motivate them, to help them in their healing process,” she added.
Miles and her band mates accomplish this with the 15 tracks on “Sweet Little Bloodhound.” This disc is everything that you’d expect from music called “soulful rock” and the music here will make you feel, it will make you think, and best of all, it will have you singing along. This is a refreshing debut that leaves listeners hoping that there will be much more to come.
Sheryl Hunter is a music writer who lives in Easthampton. Her work has appeared in various regional and national magazines. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org