Don't mistake this Brooke Miller for the world class racing cyclist, they're not the same. The cyclist is a tomboyish-looking raven (or dark brunette) cutie, but the musician is a blonde beauty who could easily be a top model, covergirl, or movie actress. Instead, she wields stringed instruments in ringing melodic fingerstyle and sings with a style not unlike Joan Armatrading at her absolute peak (the first two LPs, before Joanie got the star treatment…with all the accompanying mediocrity that implies). At the Canadian Guitar Festival, Miller was noted as influenced by Bruce Cockburn, Rickie Lee Jones, and Lenny Breau, but I'd toss in John Martyn, John Batdorf, and Joni Mitchell as well; perhaps not influences as such, but there are a lot of stylistic similarities.
If you go to her webpage, you can catch videos of performances, some of which include live takes and with fellow CandyRatters Don Ross (here) and Jimmy Wahlsteen (here), a bit boomy and brittle due to the open miking, but the guitar interplay is superb, not unlike the old Windham Hill ventures of similar ilk (and if you've never laid ear to An Evening with Windham Hill Live and the astounding Clockwork…well, ya hafta, it's Mahavishnu-esque!). Rose Cousins joins Miller on a Joni Mitchell-ish Hands and Ross sits in through much of the disc. But listen carefully to the addition of tracked-in, long, slow melismatic tones in Hands and elsewhere—perhaps they're harmonics but I suspect otherwise—airily wafting along in graceful eddies pregnant with subtly and beautifully shaded coloration, a kind of subtlety that is so rare.
Like Cockburn, Miller's secret is indeed atmosphere and catchy rhythms, establishing a groove that sinks beneath the skin, but from different angles, never obtrusive, though What You Know very nicely sees a growing passion in insistent vocals. Pastorality, plays a large part in the whole equation, perhaps induced by her Prince Edward Island home, a rather rugged milieu off the eastern coast of Canada. That environment may also account for the lovely quasi-austerity so prevalent in Shake It Off's eight selections, and Big Deal melds all the foregoing qualities, peeling off the CD with gorgeous atmospherics in restrained semi-orchestral fashion, Miller's voice utilizing all her traits with skill and leashed urgency.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2011, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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