Although it’s only her second album so far, The Next Eleven Miles demonstrates both an eloquence and experience that belies her lack of greater public awareness. A native of northwestern Massachusetts, Michelle Canning can claim the distinction of being the youngest individual ever to win the title of New England Banjo Champion, an award she won in 2009. Likewise, her appearances at IBMA and the Woodsongs Old Time Radio Hour as well as tours of several states and the People’s Republic of China all attest to her prowess and proficiency.
Not surprisingly then, The Next Eleven Miles offers further proof of her ability to create an indelible impression from the album’s first song on. That’s certainly indicated in the opening track, a cover of Buck Owens’ Open Up Your Heart (And Let my Love Come In), a festive affirmation of the joyous feeling brought on by love when a bond is created between two people. That song’s followed by Kickin’ Our Hearts Around, an offering with a similar theme, albeit one that views the relationship from a decidedly tattered perspective.
Canning’s ability to vary her template from the rousing to the reflective is equally assured, as indicated on the album’s standout ballads — the heartfelt ‘Til I Die, which she dedicates to her godson, the tender The Next Eleven Miles and the supple and soothing Hopelessly Yours, another expression of enduring devotion. Likewise, her upbeat gospel exhortation, Hallelujah, I’m Ready, suggests her faith extends far beyond this earthly divide.
The album overall conveys a traditional country template that readily brings to mind the sound of decidedly vintage origins. Canning’s lively delivery frequently recalls that of Dolly Parton, Kitty Wells and Patsy Cline in both passion and presentation.
Likewise, her instrumental dexterity, as evidenced in the lively banjo instrumental, Blowin’ Up a Storm, the fiddle frenzy of The Guessing Game and a celebratory take on Connie Smith’s I’ll Come Running To You suggests that Canning’s sentiments are genuinely sincere, an expression of enthusiasm for the fact that music is her mantra and she clearly serves it well.