Although singer/songwriter Hannah Miller began her music career in Columbia, she recently left the Capitol City in the hopes of breaking it big in Nashville. Still, we here at Jasper tend to hang on to our ex-pats, cheering on their careers and welcoming their new output and hometown returns. We hated missing her record release party last Friday (a surfeit of wonderful arts options that night!), especially because her new record is absolutely amazing.
Recorded with the help of top-notch producer Neilson Hubbard, who has worked with the likes of such accomplished singer/songwriters as Matthew Ryan and Garrison Starr, O Black River’s 6 songs are easily the finest of Miller’s recorded output. While she has had great production work in the past on 2008’s Into the Black (Mitch Dane) and last year’s Journey to the Moon EP (Ian Fitchuk and Justin Loucks), this time the sound fits the songs like a glove. From the muted trumpet playing on “To the Swift” to the foreboding drums and ominous guitar riffs on “Bleed Out,” Hubbard matches each tune with a full-but-not-overbearing accompaniment that shows a care and attentiveness fitting the song rather than just coloring in the white space—which is one of the hardest things to avoid when trying to flesh out solo performer-oriented folk-pop tunes.
Even more fortunately, Miller has evolved into a first-rate songwriter, and every song here deserves attention. Beginning with the gospel-inflected title track, Miller also shows off her mastery of the slinky pop in “To the Swift” and “Elijah,” introspective balladry on “Elijah” and “Refuge,” and gets damn near indie rock on the throbbing “Bleed Out.” She’s always had a penchant of unorthodox genre mixing, but it has never come across so effortlessly natural until now.
So, while Miller sounds quite happy in the Music City, we can only hope that she remembers where she came from and that she comes back often—and we encourage you to support an artist who has been so thoroughly dedicated to her craft that we might soon be talking about her in national rather than local terms.
You can find more information about Hannah Miller’s music @ hannahmillermusic.com.
- K. Petersen
(Kyle Petersen is the Music Editor for Jasper Magazine -- contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org)