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Milan Miller

Poison Cove – 2013 (BluSadie)

Reviewed by Larry Stephens

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CDs by Milan Miller

It's not often you hear a bluegrass CD with overt ties to Ireland. Miller has visited Ireland and connected (he wrote or co-wrote all cuts except one) two songs to the Emerald Isle. The Saddest Man In County Clare is a lost love lament with a lovely arrangement. The first minute is just Miller and his guitar, then the mandolin and strings (bass, violins, viola) chime in with a delicate touch. Spike Island Blues is a banjo-driven number about an actual place with an ugly history. He mixes in minor chords for an interesting melody.

Miller has a master's touch with lyrics and melody and has had songs recorded by well known groups (Pretty Little Girl From Galax by IIIrd Tyme Out), but is a good singer and instrumentalist in his own right. Savin' Up For a Cadillac is a happy-go-lucky song about a man who doesn't have much but has a lofty goal. He likes to sing about love, or lack of it, and Pushing Up Daisies is another song about lost love.

Bluegrass music is often about tragedy and three of the songs touch on it in different ways. Swept Away (written by bass player Mark Winchester) is a slow number of loss as a result of greed that leads to a flood. "Damn the river, blame the rain" is a line that sticks in your memory. Another approach is an uptempo song that uses minor chords to good affect. Based on a true story, Yellow Jacket Mine tells of one of the many tragedies that have cursed below ground miners through the years.

If you've ever heard Brown Mountain Light (Tony Rice, among others) then the title track may sound familiar at first. This is a story about a boy who watches from his hiding place when his father kills a man, a government agent after his still. He carries the secret with him the rest of his life.

His lyrics are memorable, his melodies stick in your mind. He's surrounded himself with excellent musicians (Ron Stewart, Scott Vestal and Randy Kohrs to name just three). This is good honest-to-Monroe bluegrass music.