FAME Review: Valorie Miller - Turtle Shell
Valorie Miller - Turtle Shell

Turtle Shell

Valorie Miller

Available from CD Baby.

A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
by Mark S. Tucker

Valorie Miller is early James Taylor re-transcribed in female flesh with some very distinct differences, especially the lyrics to Haunted Hand (an', hoo boy, you're not going to hear that one on TV any time soon!). Rupert Wates, whom I see as a prime figure in American music who's just biding his time until he's discovered, favors Miller as a backing singer in his CDs, and the story behind Turtle Shell is necessary to know in order to understand why it's such a naked disc through and through. Trading skills contributed to Wates' last release for 10 hours of studio time, she recorded Turtle in that brief sortie and ended up with a live audio vérité effort that hides nothing via board trickery or any other devices.

I spoke of Haunted Hand and please take note of these did-I-just-hear-what-I-heard??? lines:

You make me as restless as a killing spree
Burnin' and a-lootin' down inside of me
Lord, I feel the spirit of a man
Touching me with a haunted hand
This ghost town ain't empty
When you're in it with me

And, yep, I did. Spooky. Bonnie and Clydey. Those lines alone are priceless, true poetry, the kind of thing you remember for years and decades, all the more searing for the gently winsome manner in which they're delivered, but lightly chilled, as I alluded, through the vérité inditement. Thus, the recording process itself amplifies the war of contrasts going on in Miller's work. Ten hours may not have been the rasherful of time she might have wished for, but it was actually perfect.

No Depression Magazine has called Miller "pure carolina, from whisper to wail" and, aside from the capitalization error, the improper comma, and the reference to wailing (there's none here), they hit the nail on the head: Miller is indeed pure Carolina. Ironically, the magazine stole the reference from Haunted Hand, but what they're referring to is the Carolina of Tennesse Williams not that of Andy Griffith. And when things strip down to the bare essentials, as in the strictly bass 'n vocals duet of Snowflakes, you can see where the interplay of emotions, visiting both sides of the whitewash picket fencing, is most pronounced.

Track List:

  • My Acre
  • Turtle Shell
  • Peaches Abound
  • Alcohol & Elephants
  • Haunted Hand
  • American Women
  • Snowflakes
  • Drunken Tattoo
  • Some Other Sky
All songs written by Valorie Miller.

Edited by: David N. Pyles

Copyright 2012, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.
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