Worn and Weary
THE MICHAEL MILLER CRUSADE
WHEN WE COME TO
(11-TRACK FULL-LENGTH CD)
The alt.-country world satiates itself with troubadours whose playing styles are little-changed from the days on the range, but try explaining that to Michael Miller. On his full-length debut (after an EP a couple of years ago), Miller shatters the complacency of the beautiful-but-sometimes-boring genre with instruments and purty pathos galore. Precious sounds from glockenspiels, organs (of the Wurlitzer, mellotron and plain-ol'-ivory variety) and wry ukuleles pepper each track, adding a quirky sadness to Miller's already-weeping words. Such experimentation imbeds Miller's compositions with a hushed beauty; the various backing musicians play their respective craft to idiosyncratic perfection yet make sure to coalesce their disparate parts into the bittersweet whole integral for any insurgent country undertaking. With the elaborate music as assistance, Miller's ghostly voice guides each song to the edge of emotional eruption, accentuating every word with an intonation oscillating between weary knowing and genuine astonishment at love's uncertainties. This is best embodied in the opening tune, "Lover I Know," a reverb-filled gem in which Miller caresses his electric guitar and confidently proclaims, "For so long, I've been shivering in fear/But when it's love, I know." The rest of the songs on When We Come To tread this similar road of the maddening heart. But Miller makes sure to pay homage to his genre's rough heritage with the jaunty "The Ballad of Mr. George and Miss Jenny," a tale of imperialistic love whose tuba grounding, goofy harmonies and accordion squeals seem better suited to the Black Hills of South Dakota than Miller's Seal Beach base.
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