|Independent artist release
Steph Miller - Strange Sea
Order Number WS001
Retail Price from indie-cds.com site A$5.00:
Strange Sea is a superb CD from a well established musician. Using mostly rock styles, with sometimes a verging towards acoustic folk/rock, this album of well constructed songs is both original and strong. There's excellent playing from the whole band, great guitar work from Miller, at times driving rock, at others more contemplative moods. My own favourite tracks on this album are "Waltzing Too Long" and "Dark Cafe". Although "On The Silence" would slot comfortably into a Pogues album, Miller's tracks have a distinctive voice. The whole CD has a big sound , you'll find this album grows on you with each listen through. - Malcolm Fielding, indie-cds.com
"Steph Miller is a strong songwriter, has a great gift with a word and draws memorable arrangements around his stories. He's used his studio time, musicians, his distinctive voice and considerable gift of song to create a compelling set for this CD. This is an Australian artist of considerable experience and it shows in every beat and chord of this very fine album. You'll want to follow the journey. Steph's voice has an earthy charisma to it. It holds its own in the arrangements in a surprisingly intimate way, even in tracks, which are boisterous and ballsy! And there's plenty of that in good contrast to many gentle and thought-provoking ballads. A wealth of fascinating instrumental ideas explored well, but nothing overdone. Good change of pace from song to song and he works the dynamics in the songs in a way that's quite rare currently. There's real mastery in this effort. Miller seems to have created his own genre but if you were going to compare REM or Counting Crows would be somewhere in the neighbourhood. Miller is no less talented. Your collection should have this CD. I haven't had it out of the player in days! It's great and important work. Highlight tracks for me were (2) Weatherman, (6) Two Aeroplanes, (8) Under the Paint and (11) On the Silence, but there's no shortage of choice to fit every taste." - review by Ian Paulin
"Steph Miller was Roaring Jack's mandolin, accordion and tin whistle player and occasional vocalist. He wrote and sang some classic Roaring Jack songs, including 'Shell Shocked Crowd', 'Go Leave' and 'A Stranger And A Friend'. With Roaring Jack and later with Eva Trout, Steph's instrumentation helped define each band but he seemed content to remain mostly in the shadows. It was only with The Wickermen, Steph's band between Roaring Jack and Eva Trout, that his own vocals and vision were allowed to shine. Since leaving Eva Trout in 2001, Steph Miller has found his own voice once again. ... [on} Strange Sea, an album that's hard to find but even harder to ignore.
The first thing that strikes me about Strange Sea is its production. What a sound! Even on the acoustic guitar-dominated tracks, the sound is full and impressive. On most tracks, Steph's many instrumental talents are augmented by Matt Galvin on electric guitars and one man rhythm section Michael Carpenter on bass AND drums. The opener 'You Spoke (Hold On)' is built on a wall of sound generated by guitars, pedal steel, organ and the multi-tracked backing vocals of Dominique English. Steph's voice rises over the top of it all as he deals with demons and doubt ('You pushed me back from the 44 / I thought I'd lost to the traffic roar / Thought I heard black dogs a scratchin at my door').
It is obvious from much of the lyrical content that Steph Miller is no stranger to loss and grief. There are odes to lost relatives and friends. Depression figures in more than one song, but most notably the mercurial 'Tell Your Story'. This one's not so much about how one deals with depression, but with how the friends and family of a person with depression deal with it: 'I swear that I won't tell your story now / It's not my business anyhow'.
There is a huge range of influences on Strange Sea. Steph's been playing in bands for over twenty years, absorbing sounds from all over and developing his own style. The result is quite eclectic, with songs that will appeal to a gigantic cross section of listeners. I can imagine the album embraced by the various branches of ABC Radio. 'Tell Your Story', with its exotic guitar picking and home-made percussion would fit well on Radio National's The Planet, while Triple J should be gushing over the noisy swagger of 'Dark Café' and 'Two Aeroplanes'. ABC Local Radio, meanwhile, can add 'The Places We Know' and the glorious Byrds-like guitars and harmonies of 'Winter Conversation' to its playlist of intelligent contemporary stuff.
For Roaring Jack fans, there's a lot to recommend this album. It doesn't sound terribly like RJ, but there are elements that may be familiar. There's Steph's voice for a start, which seems to have deepened and matured in the past fifteen years or so. 'Waltzing Too Long' is a gentle tune that could be a distant cousin to 'A Stranger and A Friend'. Near the end it develops into a beautiful full-blown Irish waltz, in which Steph gets to play all the instruments he once contributed to Roaring Jack. 'In the Silence' features a backward guitar riff which for some reason sounds remarkably Scottish (and the song has a great Celtic interlude too). And throughout there are flourishes of electric guitar that remind me of the Jacks' Bob Mannell. In fact, could that be Mr Mannell's guitar playing on the last (uncredited) track?" - review by Andy Carr from the Roaring Jack webpage