Scott Miller has been playing piano since the late 1980's. He worked with several bands since then, including a spell with Big John Dickerson and Blue Chamber. For his debut CD, "The Other Side," he takes us on a self-penned musical journey down the Mississippi from Minneapolis to New Orleans.
The opener, "River of Tears," lulls you into a false sense of security with its initial combination of dobro--courtesy of Paul Mayasich--and vocals. I even checked to make sure that I had the right album, but everything is put to rights once the (previously expected) piano weighs in. This is the first of several tunes that owe something to New Orleans, calling to mind the mellower side of Dr John, or even Little Feat. It demonstrates that Miller has a very good voice, and is more than useful on the 88s. First
impressions are reinforced on "Put Your Good Dress On," where the piano is given a more dominant role.
Although many of the songs owe a debt to the great piano players associated with the Big Easy, Miller has also assimilated other influences along the way. "Glad I Feel In Love" and "Wrong Side of the Tracks," for example, have more of a barrelhouse feel, while "My Baby's Gone" is definitely more in the Chicago style. He is equally at home slowing things right down on the album's title track, where he moves into Gospel territory. It features some neat slide guitar, and appropriately churchy organ (from Miller). This one would sound even better with a big backing choir.
The material here works well with Miller's band line up, but you cannot help feeling that songs like "Town of Broken Dreams" would benefit even more from some horns. It already features some improvised vocal horns, so maybe Miller agrees. It also pays to look beneath the song titles. "Back Door Man," for example, has a familiar title (and topic) but is most definitely a Miller original. Do not be deterred by the closing "Jambalaya" either. It is not the old Carpenters' tune, and is another track featuring
some more neat dobro work from Mayasich.
"The Other Side" is jam-packed with very good piano-based songs. The New Orleans influence is fairly easy to detect, although Miller's attitude is closer to that of the likes of Anders Osbourne in that he seems to want to take the classic sound and do something extra with it. Miller has certainly achieved this from the producer's chair, and has the vocal and piano playing talents to back it all up. "The Other Side" is a very fine debut
album indeed, and on this evidence Scott Miller seems destined to go a long way.
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