John Southworth

Miracle in the Night

  • AllMusic Rating
    9
  • User Ratings (0)
  • Your Rating

AllMusic Review by

In what feels like a briefer, inland-dwelling sequel to 2014's tour de force, Niagara, Miracle in the Night distills into its 11 tracks the kind of enigmatic moonlit fantasia that could only come from the singular mind of John Southworth. Twelve albums into his career, the English-Canadian songwriter's reputation as a smart-pop mysterioso only deepens as he continues his transformation into the hushed blend of acoustic jazz, folk, and chamber pop that has more or less marked his later output. Assembled with great craft by his longtime band the South Seas, Miracle in the Night is a wonder of earthen poeticism, peculiar observations, and beautifully captured instrumentation. Amidst the gentle piano voicings, pump organ, and brushed drum parts, Southworth's distinctive voice whispers and croons, occasionally flexing its power like a sudden night wind. His songs are carefully understated, but consistently excellent, a feat that seems rarer and rarer in the increasingly fractured, singles-driven industry of which he remains an outsider. The regular world's constant static and numbing chatter are miles away from Southworth's delicate inner plane of nocturnal mailmen, eerie impostors, snowy owls, and deep pre-dawn rambles. A melancholic sweetness imbues tracks like "The Luddite," "Pure Song of the Children," and "Just Before Dawn," though it's the murkier-toned pieces like "Adopt a Highway" and the marvelous title track whose uncertain moods cast the most affecting spell. The arresting "Obscurantism" sits like an obsidian centerpiece with the artist spinning his own dark-hued origin story, declaring of his creative sovereignty "from that day on I made my song impossible to con, I made it bluer, obscurer, a shadow in the mirror so no one could sing along." That line, just one gem among many, essentially sums up Southworth's uncompromising vision which he maintains on yet another stellar collection.

blue highlight denotes track pick