Jesse Milnes & Emily Miller

Deep End Sessions Vol. II – 2015 (Self-released)

Reviewed by Kevin Oliver

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CDs by Jesse Milnes & Emily Miller

In all the fuss and hoopla about contemporary bands utilizing various elements of old time music and bluegrass to create something pretty far from traditional, from The Avett Brothers to Shovels & Rope, Old Crow Medicine Show and more, what sometimes gets lost in the race to rock 'n' roll concert viability is the unadorned, original vision. West Virginia fiddler Jesse Milnes and singer/guitarist Emily Miller offer up some of that sweet simplicity here on an unapologetically spare recording.

Milnes isn't a pure old time player, throwing swing, Scottish fiddle tunes and a little blues and country into the mix. The result here is a varied set of both instrumental and vocal duets between Milnes and Miller that evokes classic old-time even if it doesn't hew close enough to it for purists.

Milnes is an agile fiddler, especially on fiddle tunes like "No Corn On Tygart" where he gets to showcase a technique that's both Appalachian and Emerald Isle in style and execution. Miller's close harmonies are the perfect counterpoint to Milnes' warbly tone, creating a vaudeville feel on songs such as "My Baby's Not A Nightowl"; when she takes the lead on "My Better Years," fans of Gillian Welch and Iris Dement will want to pay attention.

Welch and Rawlings, the Honey Dewdrops, Small Potatoes and others have done the acoustic and old-time duo thing well and gained much critical praise; add Milnes and Miller to that list of artists unafraid to keep it simple.