Wednesday, May 20, 2009
Album review: Rhett Miller’s Rhett Miller
Miller succeeds in crafting an album that does veer far enough from his previous group work to develop another identity altogether.
Rhett Miller has become quite the interesting figure. He is an adored and much lusted after front-man for the Old 97’s, along with being a big enough star to share the stage with Moby, Mary J. Blige, Sheryl Crow, Steve Earle, and many others on last week’s 30 Rock finale. Given this level of accomplishment and notoriety, he has yet to truly cash in on that success as a solo performer. His two previous solo discs, The Instigator and The Believer, were solid pop-rock albums, but lacked the spark and drive that made his albums with the 97’s so great.
With the self-titled Rhett Miller (Shout! Factory) disc coming in June, Miller continues with another decently solid disc that is truly a “Rhett Miller album” and not merely an Old 97’s record without Ken, Murray and Phillip. While the more rocking numbers lack the punch and jump-out-of-your-speakers quality that the best 97’s tracks have, many tracks effectively display Miller’s whimsical knack for turning simple a love ditty, like “If It’s Not Love” (which sounds almost like a 97’s song during the percussion heavy chorus) into something more poetic and engrossing. “I Need to Know Where I Stand” has a folk-rock tone that lends itself extremely well to Miller’s flirtatious vocal. The amps do get cranked a tad when he forges ahead with ”Happy Birthday Don’t Die,” as he hopes for a long life for his daughter.
Many lead singers dream of breaking away from their band after a while, and most do at some point. Miller succeeds in crafting an album that does veer far enough from his previous group work to develop another identity altogether. The fact that The Old 97’s are still together with their original members after so many years, even with Miller’s excursions into solo-ville, should tell us that even Miller knows where his bread is buttered the most. Ultimately, the disc is worth repeated spins, and for those who may not be familiar with his “other” project, Rhett Miller should prove to be a smooth gateway for those fans who will likely connect with Fight Songs or Satellite Rides.
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