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Bill Miller - Spirit Songs: The Best of Bill Miller

Spirit Songs:
The Best of Bill Miller

Bill Miller

Vanguard 79729-2

Vanguard Records

A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
by Moshe Benarroch
(moben@barak-online.net)

Let me get this straight: If you don't own any of Bill Miller's CD's this is the one to start with. This is a 78 minutes of the best of Bill Miller, but unlike many best of compilations, it sounds like one linear CD. A lot of thought has gone into choosing Miller's best songs and sequencing them as if there was no other logical way. Even if you have one or two of his 11 releases, you have here a great way to spend your money.

Bill Miller is often considered an heir to Neil Young, although I wonder if this label is not restricting. It's a good way to start describing his music, but it's only a start. As he is quoted in his liner notes "I was missing something deeper in my music: the sounds of my heritage", and this heritage is his Native American background, which enters Miller's music through every note he sings. By melding folk singer-songwriter music into Native American chant and flute, Miller enters a territory hardly exploited in popular American music. This is Americana seen from the native point of view, and from the victims of the American dream lives.

Sometimes it hurts, but always there is deep beauty in the pain described by Miller's songs. His voice often reminds me of Peter Himmelman's, and his way of interpreting Bob Dylan. This means that there is something deeply Jewish in the way the songs are sung. Something that is totally unexpected from someone Bill Miller's background, but that only brings in his hands great results.

The songs chosen here are very acoustic, although Miller released more electric music in his CD, Raven In The Snow. The first Miller CD I purchased was The Red Road and it didn't leave my CD player for months. The whole CD could be considered a best, but we only get three of the songs from that album. Only one track here is taken from Raven In the Snow, which was probably Miller's weakest CD. Others are taken from Ghostdance, Reservation Road Live and The Art Of Survival. There are two never before released live radio tracks from the World Cafe at the end of the CD. We don't get any tracks from his more ethnic releases, and maybe some of them could or should have been part of this CD.

Bill Miller expands in his music the "world music" genre by giving it a personal depth rarely found in this genre, and he expands the singer-songwriter genre by melting it into his Native American music and roots. Very highly recommended!

Track List:

  • Dreams Of Wounded Knee
  • Praises
  • Faith of Child
  • Listen To Me
  • Ghostdance
  • The Sun Is Gonna Rise
  • Every Mountain I Climb
  • Reservation Road
  • Tumbleweed
  • Geronimo's Cadillac
  • The Art of Survival
  • Wind Spirit
  • Never Too Far
  • You Are The Rain
  • Love Sustained
  • Underneath The Blue Sky

Edited by: David N. Pyles
(dnpyles@acousticmusic.com)

Copyright 2004, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.

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