If you'd like to hear what perfect singing sounds like, then I suggest you repair to CDs like this one, Todd Miller's Bring Him Home. Miller is a musical polymath in traditionalist and non-traditionalist venues, but his baseline love rests in classical works reflecting his devout Christian nature. He's been the featured soloist for many musical organizations, The Houston Symphony not least among them, and has even made it to Carnegie Hall, Mecca for the cognoscenti in this country. Listen to the high classicist cuts here, and the reason for the honors is more than evident: not a single note but that's immaculately formed, round and full, rich, lustrous, gravid with emotion and intelligence.
I aver to have some rudimentary experience in the vocal arts, as a youth having sung in a church choir (I also served as alter boy and catechist, soon after to become atheist), but, more importantly, having watched as my father brought tears to the parish's eyes when he sang the Ave Maria at high masses, some of the congregation literally weeping, a town-treasured emotional interlude in the pastoral grind of life in what was then (the 50s) smalltown Jefferson, Mass. I hear much of that in Bring Him Home, chiefly a moving threnodic affair. In the enveloping blare and tumult of rock and roll, pop, and other modes, I think people have forgotten what such events and what such musics mean. Balladry may come close elsewhere, but the intensity of the compositions, lyrics, and delivery invest so much more than what mainstream musics are capable of.
Not that everything on this disc is a matter of Bach, Dvorak, Shostakovich, and such, however. Down Where the Willows Weep is as though rescued from Paul Winter's later period with remnants of his Oregon-involved early era surviving intacto, the unearthly backing choir behind Miller and the musicians heart-rending, reflecting the ECM work of Ralph Towner (his Solstice period) and Eberhard Weber (Colors of Chloe). It is, I hardly need note, my favorite cut in the enterprise, interpreted as though Allegri were still alive. Haunting. Then there are tracks more Broadway oriented, such as Broken Vow, with its vaulting cadences and brightly lit atmospherics. Pure crossover work arises as well (Angels Can Fly), but what stands constantly out is Miller's highly crafted voice and inflections. What he sings, he means, and even when straying into the dicey purview of popular borderlands, he carries his convictions with him and transforms the medium.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2014, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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