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Miller enjoys life of "The Traveler"

Johnny D's, Somerville, Mass., May 13, 2015

Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz

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Rhett Miller is a busy man as he has a few musical gigs to keep his nights busy. When he's not the front man of the long-running alt.-country band The Old 97's, he can turn to his own solo career.

And he has done so in force this week as he released his strong new CD, "The Traveler" (ATO) on Tuesday and started a short Northeastern tour on Wednesday.

There can be a chunk of firepower in the 97's shows that you're not going to get one from one lone guy on stage, but Miller brought it in a different way. He could not compete with his band for sheer volume. After all, he's playing acoustic guitar and nothing else. On his new album, Black Prairie, a band consisting of several members of The Decemberists, backed him, but not on this night.

But the setting was a bit more intimate for both Miller, who seems to have aged little at 44, with the very healthy size-wise, engaged audience.

Miller did not aim for musical perfection in his 90-minute show, and in his case, that was not a negative at all. That showed up in his vocal delivery where he threw aside perfection of sounding just right for greater intensity in delivery. And that meant his voice was a tad strained at times for the sake of getting inside of the song.

The basic ingredient of a Miller song - besides lots of references to drinking and women - was that they were on the fast side, often clocking in at just under three minutes. It was not that the songs felt rushed or were wanting for length. He got in and got out.

Miller offered a mix of his songs - about five from "The Traveler" as he said he did not want to hit people over the head too much with songs they did not know - plus Old 97's material, including "Big Brown Eyes" and "Doreen." In fact, about 60 percent of the songs from his band.

You got the distinct feeling Miller enjoyed the life of a musician - whether with The Old 97's or the chance to do his own thing.